R.C. and Others v The Minister for Health and Children and Others

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr Justice Finnegan
Judgment Date07 May 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] IESC 33
Date07 May 2008
CourtSupreme Court
Docket Number[S.C. No. 231 of 2005]
C (R) & Ors v Min for Health
IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 5(15) OF THE
HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACTS, 1997 AND 2002.
IN THE MATTER OF A HEARING AND DECISION AND AWARD MADE
BY THE TRIBUNAL TO RC, JC, BC, SC, TC, RB, JC, AC, TC, SC, MC, and
TV ON THE 17 TH DECEMBER 2003.
AND IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL OF THE CLAIMANTS RC, JC, BC,
SC, TC, EB, JC, AC, TC, SC, MC, and TC, ON THE 18 TH DECEMBER 2003.

BETWEEN

RC, JC, BC, SC, TC, EB, JC, AC, TC, SC, MC & TC
RESPONDENTS/CLAIMANTS

AND

THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND CHIDLREN
RESPONDENT

AND

THE HEPATITIS C AND HIV COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL
APPELLANT

AND

KW, KC & SC
NOTICE PARTIES

[2008] IESC 33

[231/2005]
RECORD 231/2005

THE SUPREME COURT

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

Parties

Appeal - Dependency claim - Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal - Whether claimants for purposes of Act - Whether multiplicity of dependency claims contemplated by Act - Effect of appeal on apportionment of award - Whether acceptance by claimant binding on all dependants - Civil Liability Act 1961 (No 41), ss 48(2) and 49(1) - Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Act 1997 (No 34), ss 3(11), 4(1), 5(1), s. 5(2A) and 5(15) - Respondents' appeal dismissed (231/2005 - SC - 7/5/2008) [2008] IESC 33

C(R) v Minister for Health

BENNION STATUTORY INTERPRETATION: A CODE 4ED 2002 PART XXI

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S5(2A)(b)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S47(1)

CIVIL LIABILITY (AMDT) ACT 1996 S1

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL (AMDT) ACT 2002

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(9)(a)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S1(1)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S3(11)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)(a)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)(b)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)(c)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)(e)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(1)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 PART IV

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S11

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S11(1)

CIVIL LIABILITY (AMDT) ACT 1996 S2(2)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S49(1)(b)

CIVIL LIABILITY (AMDT) ACT 1996 S2(1)(a)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(8)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(13)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(15)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S48(1)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S49(1)(a)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(1)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S48(2)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S59

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(9)(a)

B (D) v MIN FOR HEALTH & HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL 2003 3 IR 12

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(6)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(8)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S49(1)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S48

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S49

INTERPRETATION ACT 2005 S5

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S5(2A)(1)(b)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S49(1)(b)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(9)

O'C (M) v MIN FOR HEALTH 2002 1 IR 234

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(2)(a)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)(d)

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S4(1)(h)

INTERPRETATION ACT 2005 S18

HEPATITIS C COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL ACT 1997 S5(12)

1

Mr Justice Finnegan delivered on the 7th day of May 2008

2

Some very simple propositions of statutory interpretation are outlined in Bennion's Statutory Interpretation (4 th Edition) at Part XXI. The chapter is entitled "Construction against Absurdity" and recites in that context a number of presumptions and principles which should be applied when interpreting legislation.

3

Firstly, there is a presumption that an "absurd" result is not intended by the legislature. As Bennion states (at p.831):-

"The court seeks to avoid a construction that produces an absurd result, since this is unlikely to have been intended by Parliament. Here the courts give a very wide meaning to the concept of 'absurdity", using it to include virtually any result which is unworkable or impracticable, inconvenient, anomalous or illogical, futile or pointless, artificial, or productive of a disproportionate counter-mischief."

4

On the page following (p.832) Bennion states:-

"The court seeks to avoid a construction of an enactment that produces an unworkable or impracticable result, since this is unlikely to have been intended by Parliament."

5

Further, the court seeks to avoid a construction that causes unjustifiable inconvenience to persons who are subject to the enactment, since this is unlikely to have been intended by Parliament (p.839).

6

Finally, Bennion also states (at p.845) that:-

"The court seeks to avoid a construction that creates an anomaly or otherwise produces an irrational or illogical result."

7

An award under S. 5 (2A) (b) of the Act is one made in respect of the general damages which the deceased would have been entitled for pain and suffering, personal injury, loss of/or diminution or expectation of life or happiness, which the deceased suffered during his or her lifetime and to which the deceased would have been entitled if he or she had survived and brought a claim for compensation to the Tribunal. It equates to an award to which the deceased alone would have been entitled.

8

I am quite satisfied that the terminology of this sub-section, which follows on immediately after a sub-section dealing with the Civil Liability Act, 1961, contemplates a unitary award such as is indeed provided for by the Civil Liability Act, 1961 in respect of a fatal claim. Sub-section (b) does not refer to multiple awards. It provides that the amount of the award, which is described exclusively in the singular, shall be divided amongst the dependents in such manner as the Tribunal thinks just. Again, this language closely tracks the language contained in the Civil Liability Act, 1961 and puts in place a scheme to be operated in the same manner. If separate claims had been intended one would have expected explicit statutory language so providing. To put it another way, if multiple awards had been intended words such as "awards" or "the aggregate amount of the awards must not exceed the total sum to which the deceased would have been entitled" would have been deployed in the relevant sub-section. Such words do not appear.

9

Assuming, for the purposes of argument, that the dependents are to be seen as separate individual claimants, the following inevitable consequences would follow:-

10

(a) Each such appellant would be entitled to appeal both the adequacy of the lump sum award and the division or apportionment thereof. If there were multiple dependents this would lead to multiple appeals where the lump sum might require to be assessed repeatedly even though the closest and main dependents were happy with it. If any appeal the lump sum might be reduced: what happens then?

11

(b) Each appellant would be entitled to challenge the apportionment, thereby opening up to possible revision the apportionment made to other dependents who are content with the sum apportioned to them.

12

(c) The bringing of an appeal by a dependent who may have only the most peripheral interest in the apportionment would have the effect of delaying payment to all other dependents, including a main dependent, all of whom may be satisfied to accept the apportionment made amongst them. This is what has happened in the instant case.

13

(d) The rejection by a minority dependent of an apportionment made in his or her favour, unaccompanied by any appeal, would have the effect that all dependents, including the claimant or claimants, being the spouse and child of the deceased herein, would be deemed to have rejected the lump sum award and would thereafter be confined to their remedy in common law.

14

(e) The claimant may have no prospect of winning a common law claim for compensation and would thus be altogether deprived of his or her share in the apportionment of the lump sum award.

15

I would see these consequences as comprehensively fitting the description of an absurd, illogical and unworkable construction of the statutory scheme.

16

Of course there are unsatisfactory anomalies in the existing statutory provisions, but to a large degree these anomalies are also inherent in the provisions of the Civil Liability Act, 1961. There might be grounds for arguing that a statutory provision which permits an appeal to the claimant but not the other dependents fails constitutional scrutiny but the constitutionality of the present legislation is not an issue in these proceedings. Also it is important to bear in mind that the interpretation adopted by the Tribunal, consistent with the scheme of the 1961 Act, ensures a sensible, practical and efficient system for the disposal of dependency claims.

17

The statutory language is not so clear as to suggest that the legislature really intended that each dependent should have a separate and distinct claim, nor is the literal meaning of the statutory scheme so clear and unambiguous as to compel one to that conclusion. In my view the legislature should not be taken as having intended an absurdity, although I do accept that the statutory scheme requires re-visitation in the light of the differing views expressed by members of this Court in relation to the interpretation of Section 5(2A)(b).

18

I would allow the appeal and would answer the questions posed on the specified questions as follows:-

19

(a) No

20

(b) Yes

21

(c) Does not arise

22

Judgement of Mr Justice Fiunegan delivered on the 7 th day of May 2008.

23

Judgments delivered by Kearns. J & Finnegan J. Murray C.J. agreed with Finnegan J.

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