State paid €1.8m to legal firm representing CervicalCheck women

Cian O’Carroll Solicitors argued for Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathúna last year

  Campaigner Vicky Phelan with solicitor Cian O’Carroll. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Campaigner Vicky Phelan with solicitor Cian O’Carroll. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The legal firm that represented Vicky Phelan in the pivotal High Court case concerning the CervicalCheck scandal last year received €1.8 million in legal costs from the State Claims Agency (SCA) in medical negligence cases.

The Co Tipperary-based Cian O’Carroll Solicitors also represented the late Emma Mhic Mhathúna and her five children in their High Court case and the €1.8 million in costs arises from 15 separate medical negligence claims taken by the firm against the State on behalf of its clients.

The SCA represents the HSE and the Department of Health in medical negligence cases and Mr O’Carroll helped Ms Mhic Mhathúna and her children secure a €7.5 million High Court settlement last year.

Liability was admitted in the case by the HSE and US laboratory Quest Diagnostics in June of last year, and Ms Mhic Mhathúna died four months later in October of last year.

Mr O’Carroll also helped the terminally-ill Ms Phelan secure a separate €2.5 million High Court settlement in April of last year. The settlement to Ms Phelan, made without admission of liability, was against Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc, Austin, Texas.

CervicalCheck is Ireland’s national cervical screening programme. More than 221 women were affected by the smear test scandal, which emerged following Ms Phelan’s case, in which many were not told for years of an audit which showed they had received incorrect results.

Mr O’Carroll has been an articulate advocate for the many women affected by the scandal and his firm received the fourth highest total in legal fees from medical negligence cases last year.

The €1.8 million legal costs includes payments to solicitors and barristers involved in the various cases and are also inclusive of expert fees which may relate to actuarial, engineering, medical evidence.

Highest amount

The legal firm to receive the highest amount in fees was Augustus Cullen Law Solicitors which received €6.76 million in fees concerning 46 claims.

Callan Tansey Solicitors received €2.6 million for 33 cases while Cantillons Solicitors received €1.95 million in relation to 16 separate cases.

The figures provided by Minister for Health Simon Harris in a series of Dáil replies to Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath show that the payout by the SCA concerning medical negligence claims is on course to top the €268 million paid out last year. The payout for claims for the first nine months of this year totalled €208 million.

In a separate reply to a Dáil question from Mr McGrath on how many claims the SCA is facing concerning the CervicalCheck programme, Mr Harris said there are 125 claims relating to allegations of misinterpretation by the National Screening Service under active management by the SCA. He said the SCA has settled eight of these claims.