Wednesday 19 June 2019

Maria's seven stages of grief

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey’s ill-fated compensation claim against a Dublin hotel was not a rushed affair. There were several stages along the way at which it is not unreasonable to assume the merits of the claim could have been reflected upon. Shane Phelan reports

Maria Bailey. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Maria Bailey. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Josepha Madigan. Picture: Tony Gavin
Dean Hotel
Bailey with Kate O'Connell and Simon Coveney. Picture: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The cheque: In the aftermath of Ms Bailey's fall from a swing at the Dean hotel on July 10, 2015, the hotel offered to pay her vouched medical expenses.

Ms Bailey claimed to have suffered injuries to her head, lower back and hip in the fall, and that she needed hospital treatment the following day and physiotherapy and Pilates thereafter.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

A cheque for €600 was issued to the then councillor.

The letter

A problem arose in January 2016 when Ms Bailey returned the cheque to the hotel.

In correspondence attached to the returned cheque, the TD is understood to have outlined what in her view was the likely cost of medical treatment into the future.

At that stage, Ms Bailey was not legally represented. The hotel has stated that when the TD asked for what was described as "a substantial sum" the matter was handed over to its solicitors. In interviews with the 'Sunday Independent' and RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke, Ms Bailey said the height of what she was asking for to cover her medical costs was €7,000. This has not been confirmed by the hotel.

Legal advice

With the hotel referring the issue to its solicitors Lemans, Ms Bailey sought her own legal representation.

It is unclear precisely when this happened, but she chose Madigan Solicitors, the firm of her Fine Gael colleague Josepha Madigan, who is now the Culture Minister.

Defending her decision to sue the hotel, Ms Bailey told Sean O'Rourke: "Mine was legitimate. I took clear legal advice on this. I am not a legal expert. I followed the legal advice that I got." Whether Ms Madigan was the person in the firm who initially advised her is still unclear. Ms Bailey would not be drawn on this, while the minister has also refused to say. The minister stepped away from the firm after joining Cabinet in 2017.

PIAB

Before a personal injury case can proceed into the courts system, it must first be authorised by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

In most cases, court can be avoided if the PIAB can come up with an assessment of damages acceptable to all parties. However, this did not happen in Ms Bailey's case.

An application was made to the PIAB in February 2017 and it issued an authorisation to proceed to court under Section 17 of the PIAB Act that July. Under the section invoked, there are a number of possible technical reasons why the PIAB did not take carriage of the case.

The section tends to be invoked in cases where it may take longer than two years to assess the seriousness of the injury, by which point a claim would be statute barred.

A further authorisation was issued by the PIAB in April 2018 under Section 46 of the PIAB Act. Again, there are a number of possible reasons why this was issued. One possibility is that the claim was initially inadvertently filed against the incorrect entity.

The summons

A personal injury summons and indorsement of claim was filed with Dublin Circuit Civil Court in May 2018 by Madigans Solicitors. The indorsement was drafted by a barrister and set out what Ms Bailey was claiming as part of her action.

This is the document in which she claimed the hotel was negligent because the swing was "unsupervised" and there were no signs to instruct patrons how to safely use it. It also contained the incorrect claim Ms Bailey was unable to run for three months after the incident. In reality, she completed a 10km race just three weeks later in under 54 minutes.

The document outlined how she was seeking general damages for personal injury, loss, damage and inconvenience. In addition, she was also seeking special damages, or out-of-pocket expenses, for her medical costs. These were listed as hospital fees of €1,200, dental fees of €280 and yet to be ascertained bills for physiotherapy and Pilates.

The defence

A robust defence was filed by the hotel in November 2018. It accepted the swing was unsupervised, but said any injury the TD may have suffered was due to her own negligence or contributory negligence. The defence filing said Ms Bailey had items in both hands, restricting her ability to balance and stopping her from holding rope grips properly.

The motion

In April, the hotel issued a notice of motion saying it would be applying for an order for discovery of Ms Bailey's medical and dental notes and records for the three years prior to the incident and arising from her visit to accident and emergency the day after the fall.

The motion was granted on consent on Monday, May 20, and the following day the Irish Independent published the details of the TD's claim.

By Saturday, May 25, after days of controversy over the lawsuit, Ms Bailey announced she was withdrawing it.

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey's ill-fated compensation claim against a Dublin hotel was not a rushed affair. There were several stages along the way at which it is not unreasonable to assume the merits of the claim could have been reflected upon. SHANE PHELAN reports

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section