Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017

In January 2017, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms Frances Fitzgerald, published the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017 (the Bill) which will enable the Courts to put in place periodic payments orders (PPOs) in place of lump sum awards in cases involving catastrophic injury.
 
The Bill follows on from the recommendations made by the working group on medical negligence and periodic payments of the High Court and aims to provide financial security to plaintiffs who will require long term permanent care.
 
A “catastrophic injury” is defined as “a severe injury, involving serious impairment, the direct and proximate cause of which requires the plaintiff to receive life-long permanent care and assistance”.
 
The PPOs can be awarded on a consensual and non-consensual basis. Under the Bill, the Court must consider the best interests of the plaintiff, the nature of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff and the preferences of all parties when deciding if a PPO will be appropriate.
 
The Court can make a provision in a PPO for a “stepped payment”. This is to prepare for predicted changes in a plaintiff’s circumstances during their lifetime which may affect their needs. The provision enables payments to be increased or decreased at these times. These changes in circumstances include a plaintiff reaching 18 years of age and a plaintiff entering primary school, secondary school or third level education.
 
The payments will by indexed to the Harmonised Index of Consumer prices and will be adjusted annually.
 
If enacted, the Bill will insert two new subsections into section 17 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2014. Subsection (2A) provides that in a catastrophic injury case, any offer made in an attempt to settle the case must include the amount attributable to future pecuniary loss to include future medical care and future treatment. Subsection (5A) sets out the matters the Court must have regard to in making an order which includes the reasonableness of the conduct of the parties.
 
The Bill is currently before Dáil Éireann at the third stage.