Bailey case a tipping point for compensation culture, says top judge

Former High Court president Nicholas Kearns slams ‘insanity’ of compensation culture

Former High Court president Nicholas Kearns has described Maria Bailey’s personal injuries action against the Dean hotel as a tipping point in Ireland’s insane compensation culture.

Criticising the slow pace of reform that has led to businesses closing in the face of crippling insurance costs, Kearns, who chaired the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC), told The Sunday Business Post the abandoned lawsuit by the Fine Gael TD “speaks for itself”.

“A claim, that was apparently aided and abetted by a minister. This has to stop. It’s insanity,” he said.

There are fears in Fine Gael that cabinet minister Josepha Madigan will be drawn further into the damaging controversy.

Correspondence between Maria Bailey and her solicitor Madigans Solicitors, which is the former law firm of the Minister for Culture, is likely to reveal what role, if any, Josepha Madigan had in the swing lawsuit controversy.

Madigan has refused to say whether she had any involvement in the case before she left the firm in 2017.

The Sunday Business Post has also learned that the Taoiseach’s office was in contact with Press Up Entertainment Group, which runs the Dean hotel, last week and was liaising with it as part of efforts to quell the controversy.

Press Up was reported to dispute aspects of interviews Bailey gave about the case. However, it did not expand upon this and now says it will cooperate with the inquiry.

“From our point of view, the matter has been concluded,”

Press Up’s spokeswoman said. “We will, however, cooperate with the official review being undertaken.”

The group, which is run by Paddy McKillen jr and his business partner Matt Ryan, also confirmed that it had CCTV footage of the incident.

Leo Varadkar’s spokesman would not confirm or deny that the Taoiseach’s office had been in contact with Press Up. “The review is being handled by Fine Gael, not government,” he said.

Last September, the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) report found that whiplash awards in Ireland were a multiple of those in Britain. Nicholas Kearns told this newspaper: “It’s absurd. We’re spending five times the amount of the UK for Mickey Mouse injuries.”

Nine months on, the Judicial Council has yet to be set up. The government has promised that legislation to establish the new judicial body will be in effect from July. “It is beyond time for the PIC recommendations. Everyone knows we’ve reached a tipping point,” Kearns said.

A key PIC recommendation was that the Judicial Council, when established, would recalibrate the level of awards for soft-tissue injuries in a bid to drive down the high cost of insurance.

The emergence of the Bailey case has caused considerable disquiet as the government attempts to quell public anger over rising insurance costs.

Fine Gael has asked senior counsel David Kennedy to establish all facts in relation to the civil case, which Bailey withdrew last week.

Bailey is cooperating with the inquiry and remains bullish in the hope that it will ultimately vindicate her.

Some in Fine Gael believe there is correspondence which will shed light on what role, if any, Madigan had in the personal injury lawsuit being taken. “I have been told that there are emails,” said one well-placed source. “It would seem normal that there would be correspondence between the client and their solicitor in a case.”

Madigan cited “client-solicitor confidentiality” when asked if she had any role in the case last weekend. Her spokesman said last Friday he had nothing to add to Madigan’s comments. Bailey has refused to say whether Madigan was involved in the case.

The Minister for Culture is Bailey’s former colleague on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and both women were part of a secret group of Fine Gael general election candidates being offered training and advice by the party in advance of the 2016 general election.

On its website, Madigans Solicitors describes itself as “legal experts in personal injury”, noting that litigation can “yield greater monetary results” than going through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Madigan stepped away from the firm in 2017, the same year she was appointed to cabinet.