Controversial last-minute settlements of high-profile medical negligence cases highlight the need for an early mediation process, according to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
The chairman of the institute’s Irish branch, Jim Halley, said a settlement could be arrived at within months, not years, using a mediation service of the kind offered by the institute.
He referred to a report in the Irish Examiner last Saturday about six-year-old Dylan Gaffney Hayes, of Kilcohan Park, Waterford, who was awarded €8.5m.
The judge hearing the action and the child’s parents criticised the delay in dealing with the case, which was settled after three years and an 11-day hearing in the High Court.
The institute also referred to another case where the HSE apologised to a family of a 29-year-old woman, Dhara Kivlehan, who died after giving birth in Sligo General Hospital three years ago.
The judge hearing the case, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said it was the third case in a week where the HSE held out until “almost the bitter end”.
The institute’s Courts Alternative Mediation Scheme was launched recently by High Court judge, Mr Justice Michael Peart, in Dublin.
“From start to finish, a mediation process can take place within a matter of weeks of the parties agreeing to mediate,” said Mr Halley.
He said the Chartered Institute Mediation Service had specially trained a core of already very experienced mediators from a variety of professional backgrounds, including leading legal practitioners, to handle the mediation of high-profile cases.
He pointed out that the courts had the power to direct parties to consider mediation, which was, to a large extent, a process to assist the parties themselves to resolve issues between them.
Practicing solicitor and chairman of the Chartered Institute Mediation Group, Bill Holohan, said the service offered a better, faster and cheaper way than litigating through the courts.
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