A swine flu vaccine compensation award of €990,000 has been recommended by a mediator in the High Court action taken by a 16-year-old boy who developed a rare sleep disorder after being administered with it.
In November 2020, Benjamin Blackwell’s action was settled in a pivotal settlement which is set to make way for the settling of 80 compensation cases linked to the Pandemrix vaccine which were have still to come before the High Court.
The case had been reschedule so the amount of the settlement could be brought before the court. It was agreed that the teenager, due to the terms of settlement, should get half of the settlement figure which the High Court has heard in his case amounts to €990,000.
The Blackwell settlement was without an admission of liability. In that case Benjamin Blackwell alleged he contracted narcolepsy and cataplexy — an associated muscle weakness — after he was administered with the Pandemrix vaccine at national school when he was five years old.
That legal compensation action was used as a test case for 80 other compensation related to the vaccine which was developed to deal with the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and 2010.
This week in the High Court, Justice Kevin Cross ruled the mediator’s award was not outside of the remit of what was reasonably open to him and should not be changed from that. He did note, however, that the mediator’s decision be appealed to a retired judge who will then decide on the issue.
Mr Justice Cross said: “Without in any way interfering with the jurisdiction of a retired judge on appeal from the mediator and without in any way wishing to fetter his or her discretion to set aside the award if he or she believes that it did indeed fall outside the range, it follows from the above that in my view the award did not fall outside the range and should not be interfered with.”
Submissions still have to be heard by the judge will in relation to how the parties wish to proceed in relation to the mediator’s decision. Mr Justice Cross said the significance of Benjamin’s condition is not in doubt and he fully believed the recounting of to his condition as set out in the determination of the mediator and in submissions for him.
The judge said the parties had tackled the mediation talk as specified by the agreement and the mediator awarded a gross figure of €1.98million which lead to a figure of €990,000. He added that Benjamin’s advisors are not satisfied with this award and applied to the court for a direction as to whether the offer should be accepted by the boy and his family.
Mr Justice Cross said the group settlement of these such compensation cases by parties under mediation as approved by the court is something to be appreciated and that it represents an enormous saving of court time and the costs by everyone. That, he said, would have been prohibitive if cases had to go ahead. Now, the judge said, cases do not have to be litigated and the possible trauma to the individual plaintiffs and their families is avoided.