The Supreme Court has set out new guidelines in army deafness cases, which will save the State tens of millions of pounds. The court ruled that claimants should receive £750 per degree of deafness expected when they reach the age of 60. This is half the figure set out by the High Court in a case taken by Kevin Hanley, a 37-year-old father of two from Limerick. The Minister for Defence, Michael Smith, has welcomed the judgement.
Private Hanley, from Old Cork Road in Limerick, had sued the State and was awarded over £50,000. The State appealed the award on the grounds it was excessive. In their Supreme Court appeal, the State argued that £750 and not £1,500 set by the High Court was an appropriate figure for every degree of deafness, although it accepted that he should be entitled to keep his award.
Today, the Supreme Court dismissed the State's appeal. However, the important issue was the scale on which damages should be assessed and this went in favour of the Minister for Defence. The Court, by a majority, decided that all future settlements should be made on the State's Scale, which is half the previous guidelines. In a statement the Minister said this would seem to form the basis for an out-of-court settlement scheme. So far, claims by soldiers for compensation for noise-induced hearing loss have cost almost £100 million.