A woman whose “adored” father contracted Hepatitis C from infected blood products is entitled to total compensation of €440,000, an increase of €110,000 on the sum awarded by the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal, the High Court has ruled.
The woman’s father died when she was in her mid 20s and the tribunal awarded her €85,000 for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, €155,000 for loss of opportunity and €90,000 for loss of his society.
The core dispute in her High Court appeal centred on her claim the sum for loss of opportunity was inadequate because, as a result of father’s illness and death, she had not pursued her chosen career.
In a recently published judgment, Mr Justice Bernard Barton increased to €255,000 the loss of opportunity sum and to €100,00 the loss of society sum, bringing the total award to €440,000. It was accepted the PTSD sum was within the appropriate range.
The judge noted the woman’s father had suffered from severe haemophilia, received contaminated blood products, tested Hepatitis C antibody positive in 1993, and it was accepted Hepatitis C was a significant contributor to his untimely death.
The court was satisfied, as was the tribunal, there was a very close bond between the woman and her father, she “adored” him and his loss had a profound and long lasting impact upon her capacity to function, particularly in her vocational life.
She particularly looked to her father for advice about her education and career, the judge said.
She first discovered her father had Hepatitis C when he gave evidence to the Lindsay tribunal when she was in her Leaving Cert year and she was very confused and upset. She achieved 450 points in the exam, some 100 points short of the total necessary for her chosen course.
An educational psychologist later assessed the woman as having an IQ score of 133, intellectually in the top one per cent of the population. It was considered, due to the psychological issues she was struggling with when sitting her Leaving Cert, her results fell well short of her ability.
Having discussed options with her father, she decided to pursue a different route toward her chosen career, achieved a 2:1 honours degree and went travelling for a year before doing a Masters degree.
Her father had hidden the extent of his illness and, while she was abroad, he fell seriously ill, she had to come home urgently and her father died soon after.
She abandoned her academic plans, went to live with her boyfriend and was diagnosed with PTSD and social anxiety disorders. A medical expert considered her bereavement evolved into a severe major episode lasting two years, categorised by factors including persistent depressive mood and feelings of worthlessness/guilt.
This impacted on her relationship and she cancelled wedding plans.
She has since pursued a different course, although one still related to her chosen career, and is due to qualify shortly.
The judge accepted the woman’s academic underperformance in the Leaving Cert was attributable to the emotional turmoil and disruption experienced by her due to how she found out about her father’s illness. Were it not for her father’s death and loss of his society, she would have achieved her preferred career, he said.
While he could not accept arguments on behalf of the tribunal she “simply never tried” her preferred career, that submission was not without merit when it came to considering her future vocational capacity, he said.
Had things gone to plan, it could be assumed she would have qualified five or six years ago and would be earning more now. He considered she is “well able” for and enjoys her current work and will find a way, in due course, of achieving
her original goal.
Taking all factors into account, he increased the sum for loss of opportunity by €100,000 and for loss of society by €10,000.