Thalidomide cases may yet end up in High Court

Thalidomide

17 July 2012

The personal injuries claims being filed in a ‘class action’ against the State by members of the Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) could well end up before the High Court.

The Association, which represents 25 of the 32 thalidomide survivors, has said it would commence legal action against the State for recompense, with all its members expected to lodge personal injuries claims.

Dublin GP and ITA spokesman Dr Austin O’Carroll said their advice was that while they were obliged, in the first instance, to submit their claims with InjuriesBoard.ie, which operates a “non-adversarial claims system”, they would most likely end up before the High Court owing to the complexity of the cases.

It is understood that apart from the complexity, InjuriesBoard.ie could potentially rule that the cases proceed to the courts owing to the passage of time and the potentially high valuations involved. In such an event, InjuriesBoard.ie would be expected to announce its decision quickly.

Aside from the Government’s alleged failure to recompense them, Dr O’Carroll said another factor in the ITA members’ decision to pursue the legal route was that the original “miserly” settlement delivered by the Irish State in 1975, based on the presumption the ITA members would not survive into adulthood, he said, had failed to consider their individual circumstances. For instance, some victims were wheelchair bound while others were mobile. Also, the Association claimed the Government had reneged on providing them with healthcare packages.

A spokesman for the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly, who said Hawkins House respected the right of survivors to pursue their concerns either through the courts or by any other means, said the Department was ready to meet them when they wished to do so.

Dr O’Carroll said their hand had been forced as no negotiations had commenced, despite promises over the years by successive governments to provide them with redress.

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