Compensation in contaminated blood case doubled to €455,000
The woman was aged nine when her father died after receiving contaminated products
The High Court appeal centred on claims the loss of opportunity award was “wholly insufficient” and “wholly inconsistent” with previous court awards.
A High Court judge has more than doubled to €455,000 a compensation award to a woman over the death of her father, a haemophiliac who was treated with contaminated blood products.
The woman was aged nine when her father, then in his 30s, died as a result of complications of Hepatitis C and HIV infection. He was co-infected through the administration of contaminated blood products received for treatment of haemophilia.
Before his death, he received substantial compensation from the Hepatitis C and HIV compensation tribunal.
The tribunal later awarded his daughter total compensation of €205,000 arising from his death, comprising €120,000 for loss of his society, €70,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder/psychiatric injury and €15,000 special damages for loss of opportunity.
She appealed to the High Court and the appeal centred on claims the loss of opportunity award was “wholly insufficient” and “wholly inconsistent” with previous court awards made in respect of such claims.
In his recently published judgment, Mr Justice Bernard Barton increased from €15,000 to €250,000 the compensation for loss of opportunity and from €70,000 to €85,000 the sum for PTSD/psychiatric injury. He affirmed the €120,000 loss of society award as fair.
He said it was accepted the woman had been very close to her father and, after his death, suffered anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression and difficulties forming relationships with schoolmates and peers.
In a letter written by her when aged 16 and kept, she wrote, inter alia: “Daddy, I miss you so much. I still wish upon the stars every night wishing to see you again... Everything sucks without you here... Daddy, please come back..” .
Now in her 20s and a full time mother and homemaker, she said her father’s death had a deeply negative impact on her education and career paths, including dropping out of school at 16 and failing to complete a vocational training apprenticeship.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Barton said it was not at issue the woman suffered loss of opportunity as a result of her father’s death.
He said the tribunal had taken a courteous and sensitive approach and its counsel had accepted it took an “overly restrictive” approach to this aspect of the claim by appearing to place it in the past. That was for reasons including the woman, before any therapeutic intervention, sought work from her mid-teens, obtained and held down employment, left her jobs voluntarily and was happy to look after her child.
The judge was impressed by the woman having secured and held down employment in the past and her determination to find a way to return to paid employment which she would enjoy.
That determination was driven in part by the knowledge this would make her father proud and because she wanted to be a good role model for her child, he said.
It was significant she left her job voluntarily because she was having difficulty getting her salary paid and wanted to spend time with her child and had signed on as being available and looking for work.
On foot of her evidence and other evidence, including from an educational psychologist and vocational consultant, he found, were it not for her father’s death, her secondary education would likely have taken a very different course, she would have sat and passed the Leaving Cert and pursued a vocational training course to qualify for employment as a receptionist or in business administration. He did not accept it was unlikely she would be unable to secure full time employment in the future but factored in she may choose to work part or full time or not to work at all.
For those and other reasons, he concluded €250,000 was a fair and reasonable sum to compensate for loss of opportunity and that €85,000 was a fair and reasonable sum reflecting the extent to which the PTSD/psychiatric injury “has blighted the life of a comparatively young woman”.