Damages Law gets unanimous approval
A DRAFT law setting out how compensation payments are paid in personal injury claims was unanimously approved in the States.
Chief Minister John Le Fondré, who lodged the proposition and acted as rapporteur, warned States Members that it was ‘critical’ the proposal was passed and that ‘inaction’ would expose Jersey to ‘continued risk’.
The new legislation comes in the wake of a multi-million-pound lawsuit brought by two siblings who sued the Health Department after they were subjected to incest, neglect and emotionally abusive parenting.
Health, which accepted the pair should have been taken into care sooner, settled the case with the siblings for an undisclosed sum.
Opening the debate, Senator Le Fondré said that as soon as he took up the role of Chief Minister he was told that the new law was a ‘key priority’, as it would have an affect on doctors’ insurance premiums, potentially preventing them from being able to practise in the Island.
He added that large payouts would also have an impact on public services if the States were liable and that Islanders insurance premiums could be at risk. Senator Le Fondré said the law was to ensure that the right level of compensation was given to plaintiffs – ‘not a penny less, not a penny more’.
Expressing his anger, he said that although some would say the legislation, which has proved contentious with different experts, was being brought in, ‘haste’ was a legacy he had inherited, as the medical profession had brought the issue to the political level in 2015.
‘We know there are a significant number of damages cases coming to court in the coming year,’ Senator Le Fondré added. ‘Inaction at this point will just expose us to continued risk.’
When in force, the Damages Law will establish a discount rate for claims on lump-sum awards. The discount rate presumes that a claimant will invest any lump sum and receive a return, which they can then use for their future needs and the discount rate reflects the likely rate of return on the investment.
The rate has been split and set at 0.5% for claimants who are expected to live for up to 20 years and 1.8% for those expected to live for longer. The law also enables the Chief Minister to alter the discount rate in agreement with the Bailiff.
Senator Le Fondré also told the States that he would be assessing the five recommendations set out earlier this week by the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel in relation to the legislation.
The recommendations include monitoring the split discount rate and for any changes to it to be more tightly controlled. They also call for regulations to be brought forward within three months to provide further detail on how changes to the rate are managed.