The State Claims Agency director Ciaran Breen confirmed the situation as the High Court yesterday awarded one woman €2m over a related ovarian cancer case.
Speaking as Health Minister Simon Harris separately admitted plans to speak with 3,000 cervical cancer tests victims could delay State investigations by “four or five months”, Mr Breen said he is aware of multiple extra cases before the courts.
Asked by Labour TD Alan Kelly, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O Brien at the Public Accounts Committee meeting on the issue, he said 40 cases are being taken against the State.
However, pressed on the matter, Mr Breen said he is also aware of a further 17 previously unknown cases being taken by individuals against hospitals, individual doctors and laboratories over the escalating scandal.
We have 12 active claims, we have closed five claims and that gives you 17,” said Mr Breen.
The situation was criticised by Mr O Brien who said he believes at least one case was settled before the cervical tests scandal emerged in response to Vicky Phelan’s High Court payout, and by Mr Kelly who said the scale of the crisis would have been kept hidden without Ms Phelan “blowing the lid” on it.
News of the extra cases emerged as Health Minister Simon Harris admitted the need to contact up to 3,000 women who may have been affected by the cervical cancer tests scandal could delay the planned State investigation into the crisis by “four or five months”.
During a separate Dáil leaders’ questions debate, Tánaiste Simon Coveney also addressed the cervical cancer tests scandal by rowing back on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s confirmation on Wednesday the State will not pay retrospective expenses to victims prior to May 11.
Mr Coveney said the Government is not being “cold and callous” by setting out a cut-off point, and insisted it has not been applied.
“There is no definitive cut-off date here. The scandal effectively broke on May 11. The Government response and services offered can be dated from then,” he said.