A High Court judge has ordered a plaintiff to pay a proportion of her legal costs for a medical negligence claim after the claim was resolved successfully.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine took the unusual step of departing from the legal principal of “costs follow the event” in the case of Madeline Wright v. the Health Service Executive, in which the judge determined that no more than 20% of the evidence presented in court related to the claim against the HSE.
The judge noted that several other allegations – particularly those made against Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr. Keith Synott – were unsubstantiated, and although commenting that “she (Madeline) must be deemed to be the overall winner of proceedings in which the defendants denied any liability” the judge also added that the case of medical negligence was proven in only one leg of the claim (of four).
Ms Justice Mary Irvine added “Just because a plaintiff has one good point they should not, to my mind, be permitted to litigate a myriad of others and have the court make an order requiring the successful defendant on such issues to pay for that luxury. There must be some sanction in terms of costs should this occur”.
The judge said the she was tempted to reduce the award of legal costs for a medical negligence claim to 20% to reflect the time that had been wasted in court, and to act as a deterrent to any future plaintiff who may attempt to attach unsubstantiated allegations to a genuine claim. However, she admitted that a reduction of 80% legal costs for a medical negligence claim was too harsh due to the complexity of the claim.
Instead, the judge settled on a reduction of 35% and awarded Madeline 65% of her full legal costs for a medical negligence claim “as this practice (departing from the principal of “costs follow the event”) has not to date been customary in this type of litigation”.