Damages and catastrophic injury


Sir, – The very welcome decision of the Court of Appeal in the Gill Russell case, reported by Mary Carolan, throws three issues into sharp relief (“Ruling means higher damages for victims of catastrophic injuries”, November 5th).

First, the inexcusable failure to pass legislation allowing for staged payments over time in such cases. The lack of this basic legal tool forces courts to make high awards, and throws the risk on the victims in these cases.

Second, the likelihood that many affected children will live much longer than the courts have estimated, as the life expectancy for children with severe cerebral palsy is much higher than generally assumed. Many can expect to live well into their seventies, which greatly affects their costs of care.

Third, the fundamental injustice that children with catastrophic injuries can only receive adequate care at home if they can show that someone was to blame for their situation.

In the absence of adequate and accessible home care for all those with severe disabilities, many families see no option but risky and costly litigation to secure a future for their children.

In the absence of such decent accessible care, and a fair no-fault compensation system, the State will continue to pay heavily for a complex, and strikingly expensive legal process. The State Claims Agency has greatly improved the situation for many claimants, but isn’t it now time to take the next step? – Yours, etc,


Professor of Health Systems,

School of Nursing

and Human Sciences,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.