Wards of Court service says victim payouts are safe
No child who received a multi-million euro High Court award for a brain injury at birth has lost out financially as a result of problems on the investment market, a spokesman for the Wards of Court service insisted last night.
The compensation funds had shown "significant increases over the seven years since they were invested", he said.
The Wards of Court Office invests the awards on behalf of the brain-damaged children.
The spokesman was responding to medical negligence lawyer Michael Boylan, who said yesterday he feared the investments by the Wards of Court office were virtually worthless due to the collapse of so-called blue chip bank shares and equities.
Mr Boylan, of the Augustus Cullen Law firm, told a conference in Dublin yesterday: "It's hardly appropriate to be telling a paraplegic who requires 24-hour care that they have to tighten their belt in times of low yields on the stock market and wait for a return of the bull market.
"It is not possible for such a person to tell their carer that they can only be paid two-thirds of their agreed wage, pending an improvement in investment returns."
However, the spokesman for the courts service said last night that the investment of the compensation awards had actually shown significant increases over the past seven years, notwithstanding a dip in 2008.
The service invests in a series of "broad-based portfolios", which performed well, he said. Since June 2006 cash funds had increased in value by 10.63pc.
Mr Boylan was speaking at the conference 'Catastrophic Birth and Child Injuries', organised by UK-based advocacy group, Action against Medical Accidents, and supported by Patient Focus
He supported the planned switch from from lump-sum court awards to index-linked staggered payments over a lifetime for babies who suffered these injuries, saying this would offer more security.
A child who has brain damage and receives an award of €4.5m may end up needing €10 to €15m over a lifetime due to modern medical advances, which extend life expectancy.
However, Mr Boylan said the change to periodic payments could be vetoed by the Department of Finance if the cost to the State was judged to be too high.