Claims News

Judge Reduces Award of Legal Costs to Plaintiff due to Unsubstantiated Claims

Posted on: September 6th, 2013

A High Court judge has reduced an award of legal costs, payable to a woman who was awarded compensation for medical negligence in June, due to other unsubstantiated claims.

The case of Madeline Wright v. the Health Service Executive and the Mater Misericordiae Hospital was heard in the High Court over a three week period in May and, at the conclusion of the hearing, Madeline Wright was awarded compensation against the HSE on the grounds that a delay in treating her spinal injury had constituted negligence.

However, whereas a successful plaintiff usually receives an award of legal costs to cover any expenses associated with bringing a claim to court, in this case Mrs Justice Mary Irvine determined that three specific incidents were included in Madeline´s claim for medical negligence compensation which were unsubstantiated and had unnecessarily taken up time in the court hearing.

In a departure from the legal principal of “costs follow the event” the judge penalised Madeline by awarding her just 65% of the legal costs she would otherwise have been entitled to on the grounds 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

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. There must be some sanction in terms of costs should this occur”.

However, the judge also considered that it would be harsh to limit Madeline´s award of legal costs to 20%, as the practice of reducing the recovery of legal costs in a High Court case not customary. Therefore, she reduced Madeline´s award of legal costs to 65% to act as a warning to future plaintiff´s attaching unsubstantiated claims to a genuine case.

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