Irish Rail to pay injured man's care costs for rest of his life
Judge praises 'historic settlement'
Published 30/07/2010 | 05:00
Irish Rail is to pay the lifelong care costs of a man who was brain-damaged in a work accident under what has been described as an "historic" court settlement.
The 40-year-old security guard was working at Irish Rail's Midland yard in North Wall, Dublin, when a a 2.5 tonne sliding steel gate came off its rollers and fell on him on December 13, 2005.
The father-of-five, who cannot be named because he is a ward of court, suffered severe injuries in the accident, particularly a brain injury but also injuries to his pelvis, leg and head, and is now being cared for in a specialist unit operated by Acquired Brain Injury Ireland. His marriage broke up after the accident.
As a result, his personality significantly changed, his mental capacity was reduced and he lacked awareness of his circumstances.
He is to receive €250,000 in general and special damages, while Irish Rail will pay the €160,000 a year for the cost of care for his lifetime.
The company, which admitted liability, will also give him monthly income payments of some €1,200 for future loss of earnings to age 65, and cover his tax obligations at no cost to him. The payments will also be index-linked.
The interim structured settlement agreement was approved yesterday by the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who praised it as being "historic".
Mr Justice Kearns said yesterday that the "imaginative and unique" settlement is an interim one agreed in the expectation the Government will introduce legislation to provide for such settlements.
If such laws are not introduced, the court will determine the value of the case and make an award in that sum. The case has been adjourned to October 2011 for the purpose of the legislative issue being addressed.
Mr Justice Kearns said the "forward-looking and eminently sensible" settlement heralds a new development in how seriously injured plaintiffs in personal injury cases will be looked after in circumstances where issues such as life expectancy and future care costs were unclear.
He praised the "immense" work of Mr Justice John Quirke of the High Court, who chairs a working group set up by the Government on structured settlements and aimed at making this form of litigation resolution more acceptable.
As of now, income tax is payable on payments to injured plaintiffs under such settlements but it is hoped legislation to address that and other matters will be considered in a future Finance Bill.
Despite the difficulties, Irish Rail had said it was willing to enter into an interim arrangement pending the enactment of legislation and that led to yesterday's agreement, counsel for the man told the court.
Irish Rail will also provide a letter from its chairman confirming it is a semi-state body empowered to enter into the structured settlement.