Claims by Defence Forces personnel cost State €5m in damages and fees

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The Department of Defence paid out more than €5m for personal injury claim settlements and subsequent legal costs in 2019, the Irish Independent can reveal.

More than €3m was paid out in compensation for members of the Defence Forces, while legal costs amounted to just over €2m.

There was a significant spike in the number of personal injury claims made by Defence Forces members in 2018 and 2019.

The compensation paid out is at the highest level seen since the department was inundated with claims relating to noise-induced hearing loss during the 1990s in what was dubbed the “army deafness claims”.

From today, the Department of Defence has settled 16,829 claims relating to noise-induced hearing loss and paid out a total of €290m in compensation.

There are currently five claims pending before the courts.

“It would therefore be inappropriate for the Minister for Defence [Paul Kehoe] to comment further on this matter,” a spokesperson for the Department of Defence said.

A total of 147 personal injury claims were made against the Defence Minister by current or former soldiers in 2019 for injuries suffered while in the line of duty.

Fifty-one were related to the use of the anti-malarial drug Lariam.

The drug is issued to army personnel when volunteering abroad.

But it has been linked to insomnia, depression and psychiatric problems.

As with the army deafness claims, a successful High Court case led to a surge in claims relating to the issuing of the drug.

The State Claims Agency, which was established in 2001 after concerns were raised about the Government’s handling of the deafness claims, cited in a report that a High Court case led to a “significant increase in new Lariam-related cases”.

In 2017, a claim relating to Lariam was settled for a significant figure and the Department of Defence has seen a rise in the number of claims since.

The State Claims Agency manages all personal injuries claims taken against the Minister for Defence.

External legal costs incurred by the agency arising from the defence of any claims are refunded by the Department of Defence.

In 2019, plaintiff legal costs amounted to €862,408, while department legal fees amounted to €1,153,130.

A total of €3,177,130 was paid to Defence Forces members in personal injury settlements last year.

In 2018, the department spent more than €6m on personal injury settlements and legal costs, compared with just €3.31m in 2017.

A total of 221 personal injury cases were taken in 2018, an increase of 118 from 2017.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said the State Claims Agency’s approach was to “settle cases expeditiously” where the State was considered liable.

“In cases where liability is fully disputed by the State, all necessary resources are applied to defending such claims robustly,” the spokesperson added.

Source: Irish News