Street compensation system ‘like an ATM to be exploited’

General view of Patrick Street, Cork

Almost €1m has been paid out in compensation on foot of 54 public liability claims within a decade, following incidents on some of Cork City’s most pedestrian-friendly streets.

The disclosure led to calls last night for the publication of names and addresses of successful claimants. Fianna Fáil’s councillor Tim Brosnan said the public is entitled to know where taxpayers’ money was going.

“There are genuine situations where people suffer as a result of the negligence of others. In those cases, people are entitled to have their injuries made good,” he said.

But they are not entitled to a ball of money. And that’s the way we are doing it at the moment.

“I’m not anti-lawyer but the fact is we have a legal system where cases are being settled confidentially with taxpayers’ money and the public is entitled to know where that money is going.

“The system is like an ATM that’s there to be exploited. The system we have encourages people to have a go and the lawyers are using the system that’s there.”

Street compensation system ‘like an ATM to be exploited’

However, Mr Brosnan noted: “The blame here lies squarely with the Oireachtas, responsible for drafting the laws.”

He suggested the creation of a database that would allow officials to track successful claimants by local electoral division.

Jody Cantillon, a partner with Cantillons Solicitors, rejected suggestions the claims system is like an ATM, with several checks and balances in place, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board to root out bogus cases. He said it was another example of the targeting of those who have suffered an injury.

If €1m has been paid out in relation to 52 claims in a decade, surely the council should be saying after the 53rd claim, ‘we need to be careful and fix our footpaths and roads’,” he said.

The comments came after the release of figures which show €904,000 has been paid out in relation to 72 public liability claims from three of the city’s most pedestrian-friendly streets in the period 2008 to 2017. While 72 claims related to St Patrick’s Street, Grand Parade/Daunt Square, and Oliver Plunkett St, 18 others remain outstanding.

St Patrick’s Street tops the compensation league table, with over €705,000 paid out on 32 claims between 2008 and 2017. Eight claims are outstanding. Structures such as protective railings and drainage grills accounted for 12 claims, along with footpaths (11), potholes (6), and slippery surface (5). Four claims in 2010 cost €152,000, with an average payout of €38,000. Two were linked to footpaths.

Most claims were recorded in 2009 when seven payouts totalled €69,926, with four linked to structures.

The most expensive year for payouts was 2010 when four claims linked to two footpath incidents, a manhole cover and a structure, cost €152,330 — an average payout of just over €38,000.

One of the largest single payouts was for €51,658 in 2011 following a footpath incident.

The figures show one claim in 2016 linked to a pot-hole cost City Hall €27,535, with another claim linked to a slippery surface outstanding.

While six claims were made last year, half of which were linked to potholes, two were paid out and averaged €8,894.

The average payout per claim has reduced from €29,000 in 2008 to just under €9,000 last year.

Two payouts over Grand Parade/Daunt Square in 2011 cost the city €23,000, but the cost of two claims the following year jumped to €97,611.

Footpath issues were the source of most claims on Oliver Plunkett St.

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