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Judge Reduces Hospital Negligence Claim Legal Costs

A High Court judge has reduced an award of hospital negligence claim legal costs, payable to a woman who was successful in her claim for compensation against the HSE in June, due to other unsubstantiated allegations.

The case of Madeline Wright v. the Health Service Executive and the Mater Misericordiae Hospital was heard in the High Court during May and June of this year and, at the end of the court case, the plaintiff – Madeline Wright – was awarded compensation on the grounds that an unreasonable delay in treating her spinal injury had constituted negligence.

However, in a departure from the normal legal principal of “costs follow the event”, Ms Justice Mary Irvine – the judge who heard the original case – has penalised Madeline for attaching unsubstantiated allegations to a genuine claim – suggesting that (in the judge´s opinion) only 20% of the evidence presented in court related to the act of negligence for which Madeline was ultimately compensated.

Although tempted to limit Madeline´s hospital negligence claim legal costs to just 20% of what had been pursued, the judge acknowledged that the practice of reducing the recovery of legal costs in “this type of litigation” is not customary and that it would be harsh to attach a large sanction in such a complex case.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine said “I am satisfied that regardless of the fact that the plaintiff only succeeded on the last of what I consider to have been four separate legs of her claim that she must nonetheless be deemed to be the overall winner of proceedings in which the defendants denied any liability and in the course of which she duly established a right to compensation she would not otherwise have been able to recover”.

The judge then added “Just because a plaintiff has one good point they should not, to my mind, be permitted to litigate a myriad of others and have the court make an order requiring the successful defendant on such issues to pay for that luxury.” Ms Justice Mary Irvine subsequently allowed 65% of the hospital negligence claim legal costs – meaning that Madeline will have to pay the remaining 35% from her settlement of hospital negligence compensation.

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