Compensation for Hepatitis C due to Infected Blood Increased by Judge

An award of compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood has been increased after an appeal against a decision of the Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal.

In 1977, the unnamed plaintiff was one of thousands of women in Ireland who were given an anti-D immunoglobulin blood transfusion carrying the Hepatitis C virus. Twenty years later she was awarded an interim settlement of €298,000 compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood by the Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal.

Two years ago, the plaintiff underwent ribavirin treatment when test results indicated the development of cirrhosis. Unfortunately, the treatment resulted in the side-effects of decompensated cirrhosis and encephalopathy – a brain injury that manifests as slurred speech and forgetfulness. Both the decompensated cirrhosis and encephalopathy are irreversible.

Consequently, the plaintiff appealed to the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal for a further settlement of compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood. The Tribunal awarded her €180,000; but, as a similar case had settled for €250,000, the plaintiff appealed the award of compensation – claiming there was no reason that she should receive €70,000 less.

The Minister for Health opposed the appeal on the grounds that the plaintiff´s case was different to the one in which the higher award was made and that the plaintiff had received treatment for Hepatitis C before her condition was diagnosed. Consequently the plaintiff took the appeal to the High Court where it was heard by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.

At the hearing, Judge Barton was told that the plaintiff´s decompensated cirrhosis and encephalopathy conditions had been triggered by the ribavirin therapy she had undergone. The judge also heard that the encephalopathy in particular had caused the plaintiff great mental anguish because the condition frightened her grandchildren, who are a very important part of her life.

Judge Barton found in the woman´s favour – saying that the High Court had the jurisdiction to compensate her for the pain and suffering arising from the treatment she underwent in 2013. The judge said that it was “only fair and reasonable” that her settlement of compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood be increased to €250,000.