Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Justice and Equality
Medical Negligence Cases
234. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 516 of 12 February 2019, the reason the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the 2012 working group on medical negligence and periodic payments sought to limit the period allowable for medical negligence to three years instead of a longer period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8981/19]
As set out by the Minister for Health in his Written Reply No. 516 of 12 February 2019, the current limitation period, in respect of a clinical negligence action, is 2 years from the date of the incident giving rise to the claim or from the date of knowledge of it, i.e. when the injured person first learned that his or her injury was related to the clinical negligence event. As the Minister for Health also conveyed on that occasion, in liaison with my Department, Part 15 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, which provides for a pre-action protocol for use in clinical negligence cases, is also set to amend the limitation period in respect of such actions, by increasing the current 2 year limitation period to that of three years. Preparations at my Department, in conjunction with Offices of the Attorney General and of Parliamentary Counsel, for the commencement of Part 15 of the 2015 Act and the issue of the relevant regulations for a pre-action protocol, are at an advanced stage.
As with the introduction of the proposed new pre-action protocol, the increase in the limitation period follows a recommendation made by the Working Group on Medical Negligence and Periodic Payments in its Report of March 2012 which is publicly available on the website of the Courts Service at www.courts.ie. The Working Group took the view, having looked at other jurisdictions and supported by a number of submissions made to it in the course of its consultation exercise, "that the current limitation period of two years applicable to personal injuries actions generally, is too restrictive and does not take account of the particular complexities associated with clinical negligence claims and the extent of their reliance on expert evidence of various types". The Group therefore considered that "an extension of the limitation period to three years for clinical negligence claims would strike the appropriate balance between the legitimate interests of claimants and respondents to such claims". The policy decision to introduce this extension under Part 15 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 is, therefore, considered to strike the appropriate balance while also providing reasonable time to enable clients engage in the pre-action protocol process as a reforming measure that can help to reduce the number of time-consuming and costly clinical negligence actions that come before the courts.