Irish family in legal battle with Qatari firm after devastating fire

Irish family in legal battle with Qatari firm after devastating fire

Elizabeth Soffe, winner of the Child of courage Award in 2022 (Getty Images)

The Soffe family from Dublin, now living in Birmingham, face a legal battle over compensation for their daughter, badly burned in a fire in Qatar

A Qatari court has cut compensation to an Irish family by approximately half. The original award was in relation to severe injuries received by the daughter of Sinead and Liam Soffe’s who suffered severe burns at the age of six months in Qatar. On May 29, 2014 her cot caught fire due to a malfunctioning air conditioner in Al-Waab, Qatar. The fire engulfed part of the villa where the family were living, leaving baby Elizabeth with third-degree burns to 60 to 70 per cent of her body. She also lost fingers, her hair, an ear and part of her nose.

As a result, Elizabeth, now 8, needs lifelong treatment. She has been receiving care at Birmingham Children’s hospital since returning from Qatar,

The family, originally from Dublin, now live in Birmingham. Liam Soffe, a civil engineer who qualified from University College Dublin in 2000, was a project manager on the infrastructure built for the World Cup 2022 held in Qatar.

Following the fire, the Soffes had to endure a six-year court battle for compensation from Al-Asmakh Real Estate Development, the company that managed their villa. They were awarded £3.4million to help fund treatment for Elizabeth, who will need lifelong care.

But that amount has now been reduced after a successful appeal by the Qatari property firm according to The Guardian. The compensation now stands at just under £1.6million.

The company were ordered to pay the original sum after a fire expert said that the blaze was caused by a faulty electrical supply or poor maintenance of an air conditioning unit.

But the latest news about the cut in compensation has come as a heavy blow, however. Liam Soffe told The Guardian that Elizabeth has had 70-80 operations on the NHS, but will need at least another two every year until she is an adult.

Both the Soffes and Al-Asmakh Real Estate Development have appealed against the latest ruling, with further hearings scheduled for February, reports The Guardian.

A spokesperson for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The family’s concerns have been raised with the Qatari authorities, including recently.”

Elizabeth, despite her ongoing treatment, endeavours to lead a full, normal life. She has devoted a lot of her time to fundraising, and in 2021 managed to raise £200,000 for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital by running a mile every day for 26 days. At the time Liam Soffe told the BBC, “She just doesn’t seem to recognise any limits.” He added that he and Sinead tale a positive attitude as much as possible and "just keep coming back to the idea that we're lucky she survived."

In 2022 Elizabeth won the Child of Courage award during the Pride Of Birmingham Awards 2022 at University of Birmingham.