damages | 

Families to sue HSE over Covid deaths in State-run facilities and private nursing homes

The tranche of claims against the HSE signals the first wave of legal action over Covid-19 deaths, with more cases expected to follow
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Catherine Fegan

Sixteen families are to sue the HSE for damages after their loved ones contracted Covid-19 and died while in the care of State-run facilities and private nursing homes.

The State Claims Agency (SCA), which manages personal injury and property damage claims against the State and State authorities, said the claims relate to deaths in private nursing homes, community health units and hospitals during the pandemic.

The tranche of claims against the HSE signals the first wave of legal action over Covid-19 deaths, with more cases expected to follow.

In a breakdown of the 16 claims that have been initiated to date, the SCA told the Herald that three relate to community health units and one relates to a hospital. The remaining 12 claims relate to private nursing homes, "where a claim has been made against the HSE".

A "claim" means that the SCA has received notification of intention to seek compensation where it is alleged the State was negligent.

A spokesperson for the SCA said legal proceedings have not yet been issued in any of these claims.

It is understood that the HSE is facing a further raft of claims in relation to deaths that occurred in privately owned nursing homes.

It is alleged the agency could be liable in situations where it was asked to intervene in the early stages of Covid-19 outbreaks but failed to do so in a timely or effective manner.

Law firm PA Duffy said 30 families have initiated wrongful death suits against privately operated nursing homes, but that in many cases the HSE is also a proposed defendant.

The SCA said the 16 claims it had been notified of by the HSE relate to the death of a service user or staff member.

The figure first came to light through a parliamentary question from Aontú leader and TD Peadar Tóibín.

"It looks at this stage as though individuals and grieving families are being forced to take the legal route in order to shame the Government into holding an investigation," Mr Tóibín told the Herald.

"Some day the true facts will be brought to light. The families affected by the scandal deserve nothing short of full transparency.

"We in Aontú are calling for a fully independent public investigation, because we believe it to be the only way the truth can be properly ascertained."

Last night, advocacy group Care Champions, which represents nursing home residents and their families, said those taking legal action have tried other avenues to no avail.

A hearing will take place today in relation to a High Court challenge over the State's refusal to hold a public investigation into Covid-19-related deaths in nursing homes.

Most of the 18 applicants attached to the action had a relative who is recorded as having died from Covid-19 while in a nursing home.

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