At the High Court Justice Bernard Barton increased a wrongful death compensation award by €250,000 to €455,000.
The award had been made to a woman following the death of her father, a haemophiliac who was administered with contaminated blood products when she was just nine year of age. Her father, was then in his 30s, passed away following complications with Hepatitis C and HIV infection. He was one of a number of people infected following the incorrect inclusion of contaminated blood products in the treatment of their haemophilia. Prior to his death the man was awarded substantial compensation from the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal. Subsequent to this the tribunal awarded his daughter total compensation of €205,000 as a result of his death, made up by €120,000 for loss of his society, €70,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder/psychiatric injury and €15,000 special damages for loss of opportunity.
The woman appealed this award to the High Court based on claims that the loss of opportunity award was “wholly insufficient” and “wholly inconsistent” with previous court awards made in respect of such claims. Mr Justice Bernard Barton, in his recently published judgment, increased from €15,000 to €250,000 the compensation awarded for loss of opportunity and from €70,000 to €85,000 the sum for PTSD/psychiatric injury. He stated that he felt the €120,000 awarded for loss of society award was fair. Justice Barton said it was accepted the woman had been very close to her father and, following his unfortunate death, suffered anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression and difficulties maintaining relationships with schoolmates and peers.
The woman, who is now in her 20s, working full-time and a mother and homemaker, told the court that her father’s death had a deeply negative impact on her education and career paths, including leaving school at 16 years of age and failing to complete a vocational training apprenticeship.
In the judgment he delivered, Justice Barton said it was not at issue the woman sustained loss of opportunity due to her father’s death. He said the tribunal had taken a courteous and sensitive approach and its counsel had felt it took an “overly restrictive” approach in relation to this part of the claim by seeming to to put it in the past. That was due to the fact that the woman, before any therapeutic intervention, sought employment since mid-teens, obtained and held down employment, left her jobs voluntarily and was content with caring for her child.
The judge praised the woman having secured and held down employment previously and also for her determination to find a way to return to paid employment which she was happy with. he said that this determination was created due to the knowledge this would make her father proud and because she wanted to be a good role model for her child.
Due to the testimony provided and other evidence, including from an educational psychologist and vocational consultant, the judge said that were it not for her father’s death, her secondary education would likely have been much different and allowed her to pursue a vocational training course to qualify for employment as a receptionist or in business administration.
He said that he was not of the belief that it was unlikely she will be unable to secure full-time employment going forward but factored in she may choose to work part- or full-time or not to work at all. For those and separate reasons, he said that he felt €250,000 was a fair and reasonable sum to compensate for loss of opportunity and that €85,000 was a fair and reasonable sum reflecting the extent to which the PTSD/psychiatric injury, according to him “blighted the life of a comparatively young woman”.