Tribunal and High Court make awards to people infected with Hep C and HIV due to blood transfusions
Over €15.9m was paid out in awards last year to patients who were infected in the past with hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood products and their relatives.
The Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal awarded just over €15.7m in compensation in relation to 59 cases in 2015, while the High Court made three awards totalling €220,000 on appeal.
It represents a 3.6% decrease on the total level of payouts in 2014 which amounted to over €16.5m, but involved 77 individual awards.
The tribunal has now paid out almost €704.8m in compensation in relation to 3,482 claimants since its establishment in December 1995. A further €84.7m has been awarded as a result of appeals to the High Court over the same period.
The tribunal was set up to compensate patients infected with hepatitis C as a result of being administered with contaminated Anti-D human immunoglobulin, blood transfusions, and other blood products manufactured by the Blood Transfusion Service Board (BTSB) between 1970 and 1994.
The controversy led to the establishment of the Finlay Tribunal which proved highly critical of the BTSB, now known as the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
The handling of the crisis also caused major political difficulties for Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan, who was minister for health at the time.
In October 2002, the tribunal’s remit was expanded to award compensation to individuals who contracted HIV from certain blood products.
The tribunal has now been hearing claims on a continuous basis since March 1996.
The average value of awards made last year was €234,468, with the level of compensation ranging from between €30,424 to over €2.9m. Eight interim payments were also made during the year worth a combined €1.1m.
Such awards are made where a claimant is not in a position to make a full claim as they are still undergoing treatment or a final prognosis is not immediately available.
In addition, more than €3m was paid out last year by the tribunal from its reparation fund which is given to claimants in lieu of being assessed from aggravated or exemplary damages.
A total of 52 new claims were submitted during 2015, bringing the overall total to the end of last year to 4,783.
The tribunal said 525 claims are still awaiting a hearing. Approximately 465 claims have been withdrawn.
Last year, the tribunal also paid out more than €2.1m in legal costs to 10 solicitor firms with the biggest earning practice, Arthur McLean solicitors in Dublin earning over €602,000.
Solicitors and barristers have received legal fees totalling €167.5 million from the tribunal over the past two decades.
Claims are dealt with by way of an in-camera oral hearing before at least two members of the tribunal or by an offer of settlement.
Hearings are usually held in the tribunal’s office in Bow St in Dublin, but it also convenes occasionally in UCC in response to requests from claimants in the Munster area.
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