Wednesday 18 October 2017

'We must tackle compensation culture' - City councils pay out €63m in five years

Dublin City Council paid out more than €41m in compensation last year. Picture posed by model
Dublin City Council paid out more than €41m in compensation last year. Picture posed by model

Laura Lynott

More than €63 million has been dished out in compensation by Dublin's four local authorities in just five years amid concerns the city has fallen prey to a compensation culture.

Dublin City Council paid out by the far the most - dishing out a staggering €41,322,784.12 to 3,853 claimants from 2012 until 2016.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr said he was concerned about a "claims culture" developing.

"If there are claims coming in causing that amount of money to be paid out, then it would be more beneficial to put more money into fixing footpaths," he said.

"Clearly, the claims culture in Dublin needs to be reviewed as well, but I'm not sure how to control that.

Resources

"I do know these figures show we should be looking into how this money is being paid out.

"If people have serious health cases, then there is no money in the world that would fix that, so we need to put more resources into making sure the city is a safe place.

"I call on the public that if they see any hazards, report it to the council."

Dun Laoghaire County Council forked out the second highest number of compensation claims, with a €12,310,000 bill for five years.

Some 719 claimants got payouts from the local authority in this time, with the average estimated claim sitting at €17,121.

Dun Laoghaire Fine Gael councillor Mary Fayne said: "It's a no-brainer - if you want less claims, you give less conditions for claims.

"Nothing is new about our compensation culture.

"No win, no fee lawyers are advertised everywhere, encouraging people to call if they fall over.

"There is a problem with delays in some of our road repairs, too, and I've been trying to get potholes done for some time.

"But there is this culture of people claiming and something will have to be done about it."

Claimants

Fingal County Council paid out €8,095,700 across the five-year period to 1,042 claimants, with each claim averaging an estimated €7,769.38.

Fingal independent councillor Tony Murphy said: "This is partly a national issue with regard to the way claims are processed and delivered without a cap.

"The UK has caps. I'm not suggesting people who have the misfortune of suffering an accident shouldn't claim, but there is also a system that is wide open for abuse."

2016 was the most expensive year for Dublin City Council, when €9,605,001.81 was paid out to 742 claimants.

In 2012, €6,755,859.4 was dished out. In 2013, this rose to €7,619,183.02.

Some €8,026,519.90 was claimed in compensation in 2014 and by 2015, €9,316,220.00 was claimed.

In 2014, 808 claimants were paid - the highest number of payees the city council had witnessed in the five-year period.

In 2015, Dun Laoghaire forked out €3.58 million and in 2012, it shelled out €3.2 million.

In 2012, 130 claimants received compensation awards and by 2013, 210 had received compensation.

Although figures dropped for the number of claimants in 2015 to 125, this was the year Dun Laoghaire recorded the highest financial amount to be distributed. A Dun Laoghaire County Council spokeswoman said: "Claims are for accidents in our administrative area.

"All claims are investigated fully."

Fingal County Council had its highest compensation bill in 2016, when it paid €2,587,100. 2013 was its second most expensive year, with a €1,672,300 bill.

Footpaths

In 2014, 69 claims were made due to footpath issues, thought to be mostly falls, and 103 claims were made for injuries on the county's roads in 2013.

Some 236 claims were made that year in total.

In 2015, 39 claims were made for accidents in parks and open spaces owned by the local authority. Some 196 claims were made in total that year.

A Fingal Council spokesman said: "The compensation paid in these years is not in any way related to the number of claims received in these years.

"For example, the compensation paid in 2012 largely relates to claims received from 2008-2011.

"The level of compensation paid in 2016 shows a significant increase, but this does not indicate an increase in the cost of claims.

"It is entirely related to a small number of high-value claims, which were settled and related to claims received between 2009 and 2014."

The public claimed €2,060,000 from South Dublin County Council (SDCC) between 2012 and 2016.

The local authority's claims figures dropped since it handed over the management of claims to Irish Public Bodies (insurance company) in January 2014.

A SDCC spokeswoman said: "The majority of cases in relation to public liability cases are trips, slips and falls on footpaths/roads, or in public parks.

"A small number of claims are in regard to damage to property, i.e. car tyres."

€14k for siblings living in damp council home to €5m for man run over by bin lorry

In December, a woman was awarded €140,000 for injuries she received when she tripped on an uneven footpath.

Kathleen Dunne, of Whitestown Green, Blanchardstown, sued the city council after she fell at the corner of Westmoreland Street and Aston Quay in September 2014.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna told the High Court she had suffered "a very nasty injury" that led to her being hospitalised for weeks.

There were concerns she would develop arthritis and need a knee replacement.

Work had previously been carried out on the pavement to remove telephone boxes and underground services.

The judge was satisfied there was a hazard left as a result of the work.

He awarded Ms Dunne €40,000 in general damages and €100,000 for damages into the future.

Earlier last year, three children were awarded €14,000 from the council at the Circuit Civil Court for "recurring respiratory illness" due to the state of their local authority home.

Their mother, Janice Maguire, believed the illness had been caused by damp in their home in Lissadel Road, Drimnagh.

Ms Maguire had al- ready accepted undisclosed damages to settle her own €38,000 personal injuries claim.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane approved settlement of €6,000 for Harrison Maguire (5) and €4,000 each for brother Chad (9) and sister Kadie Mae (8).

The court heard that the family, who moved into the maisonette in 2010m, visited their GP on numerous occasions as a result of respiratory illness.

Assault

In 2014, a former Mr Ireland was awarded nearly €5m damages by the city council after he was run over by a bin lorry.

Padraig Hearns (below) suffered brain damage after the incident in 2007 when he ended up under the lorry after an assault.

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padraig hearns

Mr Justice Michael Peart said it was unclear how Mr Hearns ended up under the lorry's wheels but it was likely that he had been dazed and confused after the assault in which he was punched five or six times in the face.

He fell under the lorry in Sycamore Street, Temple Bar and suffered a skull fracture and was in an induced coma for more than a week.

The former air steward, who flew British Airways' long-haul flights, would never be able to live an independent life again, the High Court heard.

Mr Hearns, of Lower Hollywood Cross, Hollywood, Co Wicklow, was under the care of his elderly parents and siblings as a result of the incident.

The judge said the council had breached its duty of care when the lorry moved off without a man remaining outside to ensure it was safe to do so.

In May, Audrey Fitzpatrick - whose teenage daughter vanished in Spain in 2008 - received €60,000 from the council and Irish Water when her foot went into an open shore on Lorcan Drive, Santry, in 2014.

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Audrey Fitzpatrick alleged that she was injured when her foot went into an open shore on Lorcan Drive, Santry, Dublin on May 29, 2014.

She complained of intermittent aching in her knee and had been unable to wear high heels.

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