Draft Periodic Payment Orders Bill Published

On 27 May 2015, the Government published long-awaited draft legislation on periodic payment orders (PPOs).  The Working Group on medical negligence established by the President of the High Court in 2010 recommended in their report of November 2010 that PPOs be introduced and the judiciary have repeatedly called for their introduction.

The general scheme of Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide a statutory basis for the awarding of periodic payment orders instead of lump sum payments in catastrophic injury cases.

Under the heads of bill, the courts will be permitted to award PPOs for future pecuniary loss where a plaintiff has sustained severe injuries requiring life-long, permanent care and assistance.  A court, in deciding whether or not to make a PPO, will have regard to the nature of the injuries and the form of the award that best meets the plaintiff’s needs.
The PPO will include amounts for future medical treatment and care and provision for assistive technology.  It will not include future loss of earnings unless the parties consent.

It is proposed that a PPO could be made with the consent of the parties but such an arrangement would still have to be approved by the court.  Unless it is consented to by the parties, a PPO will not be made by a court unless it has heard both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s preference as to the form of payment. 

As the proposals introduce new risks in relation to the long term security of payment to the plaintiff, the draft bill seeks to ensure adequate guarantees are in place to protect against inadequate future funding, such as when an insurer becomes insolvent.

The heads of bill also provide that, where an offer of terms of settlement is made under section 17 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, it shall specify the portions of the offer which are attributable to future pecuniary loss and will be broken down into future medical treatment, future care, assistive technology or future loss of earnings. 

The proposed legislation will now be sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny and ultimately will need to go through the normal legislative process. On its publication, the Minister advised that she was aiming for enactment before the end of the year.