M. O'C. v Minister for Health

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMrs. Justice Denham
Judgment Date31 July 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] IESC 72
Docket Number[S.C. No. 306 of 2000]
CourtSupreme Court
Date31 July 2001
O'C (M) v. MIN FOR HEALTH
IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO S. 15(5) OF THE HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT, 1997
BETWEEN/
M. O'C
APPELLANT

and

THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH
RESPONDENT

[2001] IESC 72

Denham J.

McGuinness J.

Fennelly J.

306/00

THE SUPREME COURT

Synopsis

DAMAGES

Compensation

Personal injuries - Hepatitis C-Negligence - Payment of interest by tribunal - Statutory interpretation - Costs - Compensation - Damages - Loss of earnings claim - Hepatitis C Tribunal - Jurisdiction of tribunal - Quantum - Whether tribunal had power to order payment of interest on award - Courts Act, 1981 section 22 - Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Act, 1997 sections 4, 5 - Civil Liability (Amendment) Act, 1964 (306/2000 - Supreme Court - 31/7/01)

O'C (M) v Minister for Health and Children - [2002] 1 IR 234

The claimant's wife had contracted hepatitis-c and had been awarded compensation by the Hepatitis-C Compensation Tribunal ("the tribunal"). The claimant then brought a claim for loss of earnings arising out of having to curtail his teaching career in order to care for his wife. The claimant also sought interest pursuant to section 22 of the Courts Act, 1981. The tribunal had refused the claim. In the High Court O'Neill J was satisfied that the claimant's decision to curtail and subsequently retire from his teaching career was necessitated by his wife's deteriorating health and should be compensated for the losses suffered. Furthermore O'Neill J held that as the tribunal did not in his view have the power to order the payment of interest, the court should not assume a greater jurisdiction than that of tribunal and declined to order the payment of interest. The claimant was awarded a total of £60, 559. The claimant appealed the decision not to award interest to the Supreme Court. Mrs. Justice Denham was satisfied that in construing the relevant statutes both in a purposive and literal manner it was clear that the tribunal had the power to make an order for interest on foot of an award as would the High Court on a subsequent appeal. The matter would be remitted to the High Court for consideration as to whether an order for interest pursuant to section 22 of the Courts Act, 1981, would be made.

1

Mrs. Justice Denham on the 31st day of July, 2001. [nem diss]

1. Appeal
2

This is an appeal by the appellant from part of a judgment of the High Court (O'Neill J.) delivered on 28th July, 2000. The issue on appeal is net - it is as to whether there is jurisdiction to order interest pursuant to Section 22 of the Courts Act, 1981on an award under the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Act, 1997.

2. The High Court
3

M. O'C is the husband of B. O'C who contracted Hepatitis-C as a result of an injection of contaminated Anti-D on or about the 18th May, 1977. B. O'C was made an award of compensation on the 24th February, 1998 by the Hepatitis-C Compensation Tribunal. The appellant claimed in respect of loss of earnings resulting from the fact that he was obliged to curtail his teaching career due to the demands made on him in caring for B. O'C due to her Hepatitis-C infection. This was refused by the Tribunal but on appeal allowed by the High Court which assessed compensation in the sum of £60,559.00 in respect of the losses suffered by the appellant as a result of curtailing his work and ultimate retirement in 1989. Accordingly, the High Court awarded the appellant £60,559.00. There is no appeal from this award.

4

On M. O'C's claim to be entitled to interest pursuant to section 22 of the Courts Act, 1981, the High Court held:

"The first thing to be noted about the Section is that the jurisdiction to order the payment of interest is expressly reserved to a "Court". In my view the Tribunal as set up by the Hepatitis-C Compensation Tribunal Act 1997, and its non statutory predecessor were not a "Court" within the meaning of Section 22 of the Courts Act 1981. Had it been intended by the Oireachtas to give to the statutory Tribunal a jurisdiction to order the payment of interest it would in my view have been necessary to make express provision in the legislation for that. That was not done and hence I have come to the conclusion that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to order the payment of interest. The proceeding before this Court is an appeal from the Tribunal pursuant to Section 15(5) of the Hepatitis-C Compensation Tribunal Act 1997. These appeals are essentially in the nature of a re hearing of the case and in my view this Court on such appeals cannot assume a greater jurisdiction that that which the Tribunal has. Were it the case that this Court were to take upon itself in such appeals the granting of remedies which were not available at the Tribunal, the inevitable result would be that all cases in which there was a potential claim for interest would have to be appealed to this Court in order to do justice to a Claimant. I am satisfied that such a result would be contrary to principle and impractical.

That being so in may ( sic) view the claim for interest pursuant to Section 22 of the Courts Act 1981must fail."

5

On application by the appellant, the learned High Court Judge permitted an appeal to this Court pursuant to section 5(19) of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Act, 1997.

3. Law
6

Section 22 of the Courts Act, 1981, provides:

7

2 "22.-(1) Where in any proceedings a court orders the payment by any person of a sum of money (which expression includes in this section damages), the judge concerned may, if he thinks fit, also order the payment by the person of interest at the rate per annum standing specified for the time being in section 26 of the Debtors (Ireland) Act, 1840, on the whole or any part of the sum in respect of the whole or any part of the period between the date when the cause of action accrued and the date of the judgment.

8

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section-

9

(a) shall authorise the giving of interest on interest, or

10

(b) shall apply in relation to any debt upon which interest is payable as of right whether by virtue of any agreement or otherwise, or

11

(c) shall affect any damages recoverable for the dishonour of a bill of exchange, or

12

(d) shall authorise the giving of interest in respect of a period before the passing of this Act, or

13

(e) shall authorise the giving of interest on damages for personal injuries, or in respect of a person's death, in so far as the damages are in respect of -

14

(i) any loss occurring after the date of the judgment for the damages, or

15

(ii) any loss (not being pecuniary loss) occurring between the date when the cause of action to which the damages relate accrued and the date of the said judgment.

16

(3) In this section -

17

"damages for personal injuries" includes damages for personal injuries arising out of a contract;

18

"pecuniary loss" means loss in money or money's worth, whether by parting with what one has or by not getting what one might get;

19

"personal injuries" includes any disease and any impairment of a person's physical or mental condition;

20

"proceedings" includes proceedings to which the State or a State authority (within the meaning of the Act of 1961) is a party."

21

The Hepatitis-C Compensation Tribunal Act, 1997provides at section 4:

22

3 "4.-(1) The following persons may make a claim for compensation to the Tribunal -

23

(a) a person who has been diagnosed positive for Hepatitis C resulting from the use of Human Immunoglobulin Anti-D within the State,

24

(b) a person who has been diagnosed positive for Hepatitis C as a result of receiving a blood transfusion or blood product within the State,

25

a ...

26

(d) any person who is responsible for the care of a person referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c), and who has incurred financial loss or expenses as a direct result of providing such care arising from the person being cared for having contracted Hepatitis C."

27

At section 5:

28

4 "5...

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