Smith questioned on Army hearing damage cases


The Department of Health was urgently preparing an Irish hearing handicap assessment system, the Minister for Defence told the House when replying to questions about claims for hearing damage made by members of the Defence Forces. Mr Smith said that when it was available it would be adduced in evidence in court. "I am advised that if it is accepted by the courts it may have a marked effect on the level of damages currently payable."

The Minister said his officials would propose to the Incorporated Law Society next week that in view of the large volume of cases handled by some solicitors a discount should be given in the size of the fee. There was a remarkable similarity in all the statements of claim on hearing loss, he added.

Claims were costing £16,000 each before a penny was awarded to any claimant, the Fine Gael spokeswoman on defence, Ms Frances Fitzgerald, said.

Calling for a review of the 1,000 cases already dealt with through the courts to examine the patterns of settlement and the implications for the State's approach to liability, she said 20 civil servants had been recruited in the Department of Defence to deal with the issue, 20 extra solicitors were working on it in the chief state solicitor's office and between eight and 10 Army officers were working on it full-time.