State claims agency pays out €315m in medical negligence cases

Almost one-third of payouts concerned five cases, four of which involved the provision of life-time care for children with cerebral palsy.
State claims agency pays out €315m in medical negligence cases

The State Claims Agency (SCA) last year paid out €315m in damages and legal costs in response to medical negligence claims.

That is according to new figures provided by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, who reveals that the €314.72m total for medical negligence cases includes damages totalling €245m.

In response to a written Dáil question by Social Democrats co-leader, Catherine Murphy TD, Mr Donnelly revealed that 31.5% or €77.2m of the settlements concerned the five highest payouts.

Four of the top five payments concerned children with cerebral palsy and the monies paid out fund the lifetime care costs of the children concerned.

The highest payment made last year by the SCA totalled €22.6m concerning one child with cerebral palsy.

The SCA made two other payments over €14m last year in cerebral palsy cases — one received €18.4m while another received €14.8m.

The fourth-highest payment also concerned a child with cerebral palsy who received €12m. The fifth-highest payment of €9.4m concerned a child with a ‘catastrophic non-brain injury’.

The actions against the State usually take a number of years before cases are finalised at the High Court and last year total legal costs in medical cases against the SCA totalled €69.72m.

This total is made up of €47m in plaintiffs’ legal costs and €22.8m in costs to firms representing the SCA in the medical negligence claim actions.

Mr Donnelly stated that the legal costs sums include VAT, and in the case of plaintiffs’ costs, the sum also includes payments made in respect of experts retained by plaintiffs to support their cases.

The €315m paid out in settlements and legal costs last year compares to €325.13m paid out in 2019 and the decrease is partly explained by the disruption to court business during the first Covid 19 enforced lockdown.

The SCA has the statutory remit to manage personal injury claims on behalf of state authorities including the HSE.

Separately, the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe confirmed to Ms Murphy that the amount paid out by the SCA on behalf of the State in non-medical claims last year totalled €78.37m in damages and legal costs with legal costs nearly accounting for nearly half of the overall total.

The amount in damages paid out totalled €42.8m while the legal costs associated with non-medical claims against the State agencies represented by the SCA last year totalled €35.57m.

According to the figures provided by Mr Donohoe, plaintiffs’ legal costs in non-medical cases last year totalled €20.25m and SCA legal costs came to €15.3m.

The most recent annual report for the SCA shows that the total potential liability from all claims to the State soared by €480m from €3.15bn at the start of 2019 to €3.63bn in December. 

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