Medical negligence is a serious problem in Ireland. It needs to be treated in a serious manner.
Prior to 2004, for not less than fifty years, plaintiffs were not required to give any further details on the issue of proceedings. The plaintiff was, however, obliged to give the details to the defendant before the trial. It was, (and still is), in the plaintiff’s interest to find out those details and to communicate them to the defendant. Only when the defendant knows these things can the defendant readily agree to settle the claim. Settlement is the best outcome of personal injury litigation; there are insufficient judges to adjudicate on all or most claims for personal injury.
Legal practitioners have a solution to that; plead every conceivable item of loss and, later, waive those that do not apply. Section 10 prevents this; it requires that “full” particulars be pleaded. This implies that the plaintiff cannot issue proceedings until all these losses are accrued and known, or, as mentioned, that items not pleaded cannot later be claimed.
Litigation needs an engine; that is, something must drive the process forwards. For a personal injury victim that engine is, normally, the persistent fact of the injury. From the medical point of view this will imply difficulty coming up with a prognosis. A prognosis is a doctor’s estimate of the progress (or lack of it) expected of the patient.
To be useful, on issuing the proceedings, it is essential that the Statute of Limitations period not have expired. That period, for personal injury, is two years, measured from the date of the cause of action. Generally, there is no difficulty ascertaining the date of the accrual of the cause of action. For a road accident victim, say, it is the date of the accident.
Accidents are confusing. Meeting the unexpected (or just the unwelcome) is disturbing. Many personal injury victims have difficulty orienting themselves after an accident. For some, the difficulties are greater than others. Some accidents are more unexpected than others. Road accidents are relatively common, whereas to be hit by an object falling from a defective building is very unusual.
There are no extensions of time available for victims of medical negligence, unlike victims of road traffic accidents who get extensions of time in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board system.
That’s the theory; but, if there are no lawyers in DEPUYLAND, who is to alert the patients to the existence of their right to make a claim?
Why did such a doctor not read, presumably, a leading professional journal in his/her specialised field?
A plaintiff must prove the defect and damage. The fact of the DePuy “recall” is useful to prove the defect, but it would be necessary to engage an expert in the issue. The damage would vary from case to case, but it is difficult to see how any plaintiff with a DePuy hip would avoid ex-plantation before the expiration of the expected use life of the hips, 10 to 15 years.