Bloods tribunal costs hit €1.1bn

A State tribunal last year awarded €2.96m to one victim of contaminated blood products.

Bloods tribunal costs hit €1.1bn

This is disclosed in the 2016 annual report of the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal, which confirms that awards totalling €962m have been paid out to victims and their families since it was established in 1995.

An additional €169.86m for related legal costs has also been paid out over the past two decades, bringing the total bill to the State to €1.132bn.

The spend of €169.86m in legal fees over the past two decades concerns 3,691 claims.

The 2016 annual report states that €15.5m was paid out in compensation in 2016 to claimants who were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood products more than two decades ago.

The €2.96m award was the highest made last year with the average award totalling €432,935.

The State has now paid out more than €719.68m in compensation since its establishment in 1995, together with €158m in payments from a reparation fund.

Additional compensation of €84.83m has been awarded to date by the High Court on appeal.

The report shows for 2016 €2.16m was paid out in legal fees made in respect of 25 tribunal awards and €220,879 in respect of five High Court appeals.

Two legal firms last year received the lion’s share of the legal fees — Malcomson Law received fees in excess of €1.44m last year, while Ivor Fitzpatrick received €479,273 in fees.

The €15m paid out by the tribunal concerned €14.89m in relation to 28 new awards and €135,000 in two awards by the High Court on appeal from the Tribunal.

The tribunal was established to compensate people infected with Hepatitis C after receiving contaminated Anti D human immunoglobin 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. The scandal also caused major political difficulty for Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan, who was minister for health at the time.

The tribunal’s remit was expanded in 2002 to award compensation to individuals who contracted HIV from certain blood products.

There were 26 awards made by the Tribunal during 2016 and the total amount awarded was €15.58m with the average being €432,935. The awards range from €30,517 to the €2.96m.

The tribunal has been hearing claims on a continuous basis since March 1996.

In her report, tribunal chairwoman Karen O’Driscoll SC said: “There were 33 new claims were submitted in 2016 making a total of 4,816 to the end of 2016. While the Tribunal paid awards in 28 cases in 2016, approximately 458 claims are still awaiting hearing. The Tribunal continues to be able to assign a hearing date without delay to any claim in which full supporting documentation has been lodged.”

The fees paid to the tribunal members and chairman totalled €178,361 in 2016 while an additional €73,655 was paid out in administrative expenses.

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