Varadkar ‘trusts court’ to make right decision in TD swing fall case

Fine Gael deputy’s claim contradicts campaign against litigation culture – Martin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/File photo

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/File photo

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he trusts the courts to make the right decision in a personal injuries claim taken by a Fine Gael TD after she fell off a swing in a Dublin hotel.

Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey is taking a personal injuries case in the Circuit Court against the Dean Hotel of Harcourt Street, Dublin. She is claiming damages of up to €60,000 over injuries she alleges she suffered to her head, back and hip after falling off a swing in the premises on a night out in 2015.

The hotel has lodged a full defence of the claim and has alleged Ms Bailey (43) had items in both her hands when she sat on the swing.

Speaking on Thursday morning while canvassing with MEP Deirdre Clune in Cork, Mr Varadkar said it is “important we allow the courts hear all of the evidence and then make a decision and I trust the courts to make the right decision”.

The Taoiseach declined to comment on the specifics of Ms Bailey’s case. He said the “wider issue” of insurance has been a priority for the Government, which he said has worked to reduce premiums.

Motor insurance is down 25 per cent, he said, and work has been done on reducing health insurance premiums. He said the Government is “really focusisng on business insurance as well.”

The disclosure of the case comes at a time when Fine Gael is conducting a high profile campaign to reduce insurance costs for small businesses, amid concern over a claim culture. The Government plans to introduce new legislation shortly that has the effect of lowering compensation and damages awards in personal injuries cases, which are sometimes multiples of those in Britain.

On Wednesday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Fine Gael TD’s claim contradicts the Government’s campaign against the so-called litigation culture.

“I think there is a limit to what people are doing and I think this does impact on the claim culture,” Mr Martin said. “Who are [Fine Gael] in Leinster House giving out about a claim culture if they are doing it themselves?”

Ms Bailey is represented in the case by Madigan Solicitors, the family company of Minister for Arts Josepha Madigan. Ms Madigan stood away from her involvement in the practice upon becoming a minister.

Michael D’Arcy, the Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, declined comment on the case but said “each individual has the right to take such a case to the courts, if they believe there is negligence involved”. He said the key focus of his reform agenda was on “actual award levels”.

He said the most essential challenge was to achieve a sustainable reduction in insurance costs and bring the level of personal injury damages in line with other countries.

Senator Michael McDowell said in the Seanad on Tuesday that “the proposition is being put in court that there should be supervisors for swings when adults are using them and that it’s a matter of civil liability if there isn’t”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he found himself “nodding in agreement” with Mr McDowell. “The fear is we will end up with a country that you have a supervisor at a swing in a pub.”

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty would not comment specifically on the case. However, she said the Government need to make sure that when litigants go to court they pursue “sensible claims”.