Father awarded €110,000 after ‘distress’ of son’s death

Court heard of ‘nightmarish’ situation after haemophiliac son with Hepatitis C and HIV died

The father’s life was genuinely, seriously and significantly affected by his son’s death, the judge found. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

The father’s life was genuinely, seriously and significantly affected by his son’s death, the judge found. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

 

A man whose haemophiliac son died after contracting Hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood has been awarded €110,000 damages by the High Court for nervous shock and distress.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna said he was satisfied the man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was entitled to compensation over the “tragic death” of his son in the early 1990s.

The judge said the father had suffered from moderate post-traumatic stress following his son’s death. While it was not the most serious case, it was “a significant one”.

The Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal dismissed the father’s application in 2013 for compensation under the nervous shock and distress heading after finding he had failed to establish he suffered a psychiatric injury above the effects of normal grief, distress and bereavement.

Compensation for loss of society was awarded by the tribunal in favour of the father.

The father, in proceedings against both the Minister for Health and the tribunal, appealed the decision to the High Court.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Hanna said the man’s son was born a haemophiliac and contracted Hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood he was given.

The son was managing his illness but became unwell during the early 1990s.

His father dropped him off to the hospital as was normal, given the son’s condition, when he became ill.

Nothing untoward

The father said there was nothing untoward on that occasion when he left him to the hospital but he was told the following day that he was urgently needed at the hospital. While in the waiting area, he witnessed the emergency transfer of a patient who turned out to be his son.

The father, now aged in his 70s, was later called into a room without being told what to expect and found his son laid out dead. This was “an utterly harrowing vista” and a “nightmarish” situation for him.

The man was already vulnerable following the loss of another of his children in a road traffic accident and had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what happened to him, the judge found.

He accepted the medical evidence tendered on the man’s behalf. The father has lived for more than 20 years with “the awful reality of what occurred” and suffered problems including sleeplessness, irritability and an interference with his quality of life and ability to work.

The father’s life was genuinely, seriously and significantly affected by his son’s death, the judge found.

It was perhaps “a mark of the man” that it was through his inner strength he was able to cope at all given the awful experience of his son’s death set against the previous tragedy of losing a very young daughter, the judge said.

He ruled the father was entitled to €125,000 compensation but reduced the award by €15,000 due to the man’s failure to undergo therapy. While the failure was understandable, there was an obligation to mitigate loss, he held.