A State tribunal last year awarded one victim of contaminated blood products €2.96 million.
The highest award for last year is disclosed in the 2016 annual report of the hepatitis C and HIV compensation tribunal, which confirms that awards totalling €962 million have been paid to victims and their families since it was established in 1995.
An additional €169.86 million for related legal costs has also been paid over the past two decades, bringing the total bill to the State of €1.132 billion.
The spend of €169.86 million in legal fees over the past two decades refers to 3,691 claims.
The 2016 annual report states that €15.5 million was paid out in compensation in 2016 to claimants who were infected with hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood products. The €2.96 million award was the highest made last year, with the average award totalling €432,935.
The State has now paid out more than €719.68 million in compensation since its establishment in 1995, together with €158 million in payments from a reparation fund. Additional compensation of €84.83 million has been awarded to date by the High Court on appeal.
The report shows for 2016, €2.16 million was paid out in legal fees made in respect of 25 tribunal awards and €220,879 in respect of five High Court appeals.
Two legal firms last year received the lion’s share of the legal fees – Malcomson Law received fees in excess of €1.44 million, while Ivor Fitzpatrick received €479,273 in fees.
The €15.5 million paid out by the tribunal involved €14.89 million in relation to 28 new awards and €135,000 in two awards by the High Court on appeal from the tribunal.
The tribunal was established to compensate people infected with hepatitis C as a result of being administered with contaminated Anti-D human immunoglobin manufactured by the Blood Transfusion Service Board (BTSB) between 1970 and 1994.
The work of the tribunal was expanded in 2002 after the government enabled it to award compensation to people who contracted HIV within the State from certain blood products.
The controversy concerning those infected with hepatitis C led to the establishment of the Finlay tribunal, which proved highly critical of the BTSB.
The scandal also caused major political difficulty for Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan, who was minister for health at the time.The tribunal has been hearing claims on a continuous basis since March 1996.
In her report tribunal chairwoman Karen O’Driscoll SC said: “There were 33 new claims submitted in 2016 making a total of 4,816 to the end of 2016. While the tribunal paid awards in 28 cases in 2016, approximately 458 claims are still awaiting hearing. The tribunal continues to be able to assign a hearing date without delay to any claim in which full supporting documentation has been lodged.”
The fees paid to the tribunal members and chairman totalled €178,361 in 2016, while an additional €73,655 was paid out in administrative expenses.