All Posts in Category: Birth Accident Compensation Action

Settlement of Claim for Nervous Shock against the HSE Approved at Court

The €98,000 settlement of a claim for nervous shock against the HSE (Health Service Executive) has been approved at a hearing of the High Court.

The claim for nervous shock against the HSE was made by a husband and wife from Ballyneety in County Limerick following the traumatic circumstances of their daughter´s death on July 15, 2010, at the Limerick Regional Maternity Hospital.

The couple´s baby girl – their fourth child – had been born in good health. However, due to alleged hospital negligence after her birth, the child died six hours after her birth. The cause of death was attributed to a severe loss of blood.

After seeking legal advice, the couple made a claim for nervous shock against the HSE. They alleged in their claim that the severe loss of blood was attributable to the height above the placenta to which the baby had been raised after her birth to untangle her from the umbilical cord.

They also alleged that there had been a failure to clamp the umbilical cord in an effective and timely manner, and that their daughter´s severe loss of blood had gone undetected until she became floppy and collapse. The HSE denied the allegations.

Despite the failure to acknowledge liability, an offer of €98,000 compensation was made to the couple by the State Claims Agency. The couple accepted the offer under advisement but, due to the nature of the circumstances behind the claim, the settlement had to be approved by a judge.

Consequently a hearing was scheduled to approve the settlement at the High Court. At the hearing, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told there was a dispute surrounding the cause of the child´s death and that the parents of the little girl appreciated their claims would be difficult to prove in a full hearing.

A statement of regret was read to the parents of the child by a representative of the HSE, before Judge Cross approved the settlement of the claim for nervous shock against the HSE. He also extended his sympathy to the parents for their loss.

Read More

Woman Awarded Compensation for an Infection Caused by a Retained Swab

A woman from Dublin has been awarded €117,000 compensation for an infection caused by a retained swab following a hearing at the High Court.

Thirty-eight year old Sarah Daly from Rathfarnham in Dublin gave birth to a healthy baby on April 22nd 2013 at the Mount Carmel Hospital. Within a few days however, Sarah´s husband had to take her back to the hospital as she was experiencing extreme pain in her lower abdomen.

Unfortunately, medical professionals at the Mount Carmel Hospital failed to conduct an internal investigation for three days. When they did so, they discovered a retained swab left inside of Sarah that had swelled to the “size of a plum”.

The swab was removed but, due to a failure to prescribe Sarah antibiotics she developed a painful and long-lasting infection.

Sarah sought legal advice and claimed compensation for an infection caused by a retained swab made a claim for a retained swab against consultant Valerie Donnelly and Charles Julian Dockeray – the two medical professionals responsible for her care at the Mount Carmel Hospital.

Liability was acknowledged for all three complaints in the claim – that the swab was wrongfully inserted, that the presence of the swab was not identified for three days, and that she was discharged without antibiotics, resulting in an infection – and the case went to the High Court to assess how much compensation for an infection caused by a retained swab Sarah was entitled to.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said what ought to have been a very joyous occasion for Sarah had become something that will live with her for the rest of her life. Judge Cross awarded Sarah €117,000 compensation for an infection caused by a retained swab – commenting that he believed the award was “fair and reasonable” in relation to the pain and discomfort Sarah had experienced.

Read More

HSE and SCA at Odds over Medical Negligence Court Cases in Ireland

The Director General of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the State Claims Agency have fallen out over medical negligence court cases in Ireland.

The disagreement over medical negligence court cases in Ireland blew up last week when Tony O´Brien – the Director General of the HSE – told the Oireachtas health committee that the State Claims Agency had an “unrealistic” view about risk and safety in healthcare and was too eager to defend medical negligence claims for compensation.

Saying that the adversarial framework used by the Agency delayed the payment of medical negligence compensation to plaintiffs who had suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition deterioration, he asked “why all that trauma for people to get what they need.”

“These cases go on for up to 10 years and the State loses 99 per cent of them,” Mr O´Brien claimed, and he suggested the establishment of a fund that would support a different system of resolving claims for compensation that would not involve the parents of children that had suffered catastrophic birth injuries having to endure medical negligence court cases in Ireland.

While acknowledging that there had to be a level of accountability, Mr O´Brien also claimed that medical negligence court cases in Ireland were also damaging to the healthcare professionals called to give evidence in them. He said that, although the healthcare professionals were not facing criminal prosecution, they had to endure “show trials” when the outcome of the trials was 99 percent likely to be in the plaintiff´s favour.

In response to Mr O´Brien´s testimony to the Oireachtas health committee, the State Claims Agency issued a statement on Thursday evening contesting some of the Director General´s claims. The statement claims that 97 percent of cases are resolved without medical negligence court cases in Ireland and, in those in which liability is contested, the cases are resolved in the Agency´s favour 75 percent of the time.

Just two months ago the State Claims Agency published a review of maternity and gynaecology services in Ireland. In the review it was revealed that the total expenditure on cerebral palsy compensation claims had increased by 77 percent from 2010 to 2014. The large increase in compensation payments was partly attributed to more birth injury compensation claims being resolved with lump sum payments rather than interim compensation payments due to the failure of the Oireachtas to introduce a system of periodic payments.

Read More

Settlement of Claim for Hospital Negligence at Sligo General Approved at Court

The settlement of a compensation claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General has been approved at the High Court in favour of a man brain damaged at birth.

On September 6th 1996, Thomas O´Connor was delivered at the Sligo General Hospital showing no signs of life due to being starved of oxygen in the womb. He was resuscitated and taken to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, but suffered a heart attack on his way from the delivery theatre allegedly due to being incorrectly ventilated.

According to his mother, Ann O´Connor of Collooney in County Sligo, hospital negligence was responsible for both her son´s birth being avoidably delayed and the heart attack which contributed to the brain damage suffered by Thomas – who, since the age of twelve has lived in a residential home close to his family.

Due to his birth injuries, Thomas is spastic quadriplegic, blind and fed through a tube; and through his mother he made a compensation claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General. The Health Service Executive denied liability for Thomas´ injuries, and contested the compensation claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General.

Consequently, the claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court. Judge Cross was told by expert witnesses that a CTG trace had been discontinued in the morning of Thomas´ birth despite there being clear evidence of foetal distress. This, it was claimed, delayed Thomas´ birth by up to four hours.

The judge also heard that the ventilation tube used to ventilate Thomas had been inserted at a depth of 14cms into Thomas´ lungs, instead of the usual 9cms to 10cms. The consequence of this alleged error was that Thomas was not ventilated effectively, due to which he suffered the heart attack and sustained further brain damage until he was again resuscitated.

Despite not admitting to hospital negligence at Sligo General, the Health Service Executive agreed to a €1.75 million settlement of compensation that will pay for Thomas´ continued care at the residential home in Collooney. The judge approved the settlement, saying he was delighted that the O´Connor´s legal ordeal had come to an end.

Read More

Court Approves €9 Million Settlement of Compensation for Tetraplegic Birth Injuries

The High Court has approved a settlement of compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries in favour of a 10-year-old girl after 18 days of negotiations.

In April 2005, Alex Butler was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital by Caesarean Section after suffering foetal distress in the womb. Due to errors by the locum who was covering for her mother´s consultant obstetrician, Alex´s birth was avoidably delayed by ten minutes and Alex was delivered “blue and lifeless”.

Alex was resuscitated but, due to being deprived of oxygen, she suffered severe brain damage and is now tetraplegic. Despite being described as having a “bright personality with a huge intelligence”, Alex is mostly confined to a wheelchair and will require constant care throughout the rest of her life.

On Alex´s behalf, her mother Sonya claimed compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries against the Health Service Executive – who acknowledged liability in 2013. The family received an interim compensation payment of €1.4 million, and the case was adjourned for two years to allow for the introduction of a structured compensation payment system.

As legislation has not yet been passed for a structured compensation payment system, the claim for compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries was heard again recently by Mr Justice Anthony Barr at the High Court.

The hearing started with an apology read to Alex and her parents by a representative of Waterford Regional Hospital, but thereafter deteriorated into a dispute over how much compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries Alex should be entitled to.

The hearing continued for eighteen days until an agreement was reached. Approving the €9 million settlement of compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said the settlement was reasonable and sensible – but, outside of court, Alex´s mother said that she was shocked that negotiations had taken so long.

Sonya Butler described the State Claims Agency´s approach to negotiations as “disgusting” and told reporters “They fought tooth and nail. They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.”

Read More

Court Hears Syntocinon Use Resulted in Cerebral Palsy Birth Injuries

The High Court has approved a €2.1 million interim settlement of compensation after hearing that Syntocinon use resulted in cerebral palsy birth injuries.

Just last month, Mary Godfrey – the State Claims Agency´s clinical risk advisor – called for a nationwide consistent set of guidelines for the use of Syntocinon during labour to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, and to prevent more claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon being made against the HSE.

A little over two weeks after Ms Godfrey raised concerns about how the synthetic drug was being used in Irish hospitals, a case came before the High Court concerning how Syntocinon use resulted in cerebral palsy birth injuries in Cavan General Hospital in 2007.

The case concerned seven-year-old Patrick Brannigan, who was in poor condition when he was delivered by Caesarean Section on 20th July 2007. The court heard that after a CTG trace had shown signs of foetal distress, Syntocinon had been administered to Patrick´s mother to accelerate her labour.

However, the Syntocinon use resulted in cerebral palsy birth injuries when Patrick was starved of oxygen in the womb, and he now suffers from dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Due to his mismanaged birth, Patrick is barely able to communicate and is confined to a wheelchair.

Through his mother – Niamh Brannigan of Castleblayeny, County Monaghan – Patrick made a claim for compensation against Cavan General Hospital and the Health Service Executive, alleging that the synthetic drug should never be use when there are signs of foetal distress in the womb.

Cavan General Hospital admitted that Syntocinon use resulted in cerebral palsy birth injuries and the hospital apologised to Patrick and his family. A €2.1 interim settlement of compensation was negotiated but, as the claim was made on behalf of a minor, it first had to be approved by a judge.

This week at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard the circumstances leading up to Patrick´s birth. Judge Cross was also told that Patrick is a cheerful, good humoured boy who is cared for by his parents. The judge approved the interim settlement of compensation and adjourned the hearing for three years so that reports can be compiled on Patrick´s future needs.

Read More

State Claims Agency Comments on Claims for Birth Injuries due to Syntocinon

The clinical risk advisor for the State Claims Agency has commented that a consistent set of national guidelines is needed to reduce the number of claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon.

In Ireland, Syntocinon is the brand name of oxytocin – a synthetic drug that is often used during childbirth to induce labour or accelerate contractions. Oxytocin has the effect of reducing the amount of time that mothers are in labour and helps the womb to contract after a birth by Caesarean Section.

However, there are risks associated with the birth-inducing drug and – when Syntocinon is administered – both mother and baby need careful monitoring to prevent any complications such as an adverse reaction or foetal distress. There are many circumstances in which it is dangerous to both mother and baby to administer Syntocinon.

Syntocinon is one of the top ten “high-alert medications” in maternity units, and the death of four babies at the Portlaoise Hospital has been attributed to the lack of adequate monitoring. All four babies died from foetal distress after their mothers were administered Syntocinon and, when children have survived after suffering foetal distress, they have frequently suffered brain damage.

Settlements of claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon can be considerable. Among a recent series of claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon, Jamie Patterson was awarded an interim settlement of €1.58 million in May last year, while Skye Worthington´s €2.32 million interim settlement was approved just last February.

The State Claims Agency – the authority that pays settlements of claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon – recently conducted a study into the use of oxytocin in Irish hospitals. The study revealed a lack of consistency in how Syntocinon is administered – a problem described by the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, as putting unborn children at “unnecessary risk”.

The study found that staff at one maternity unit had no guidance on the use of Syntocinon and that staff at another hospital had to refer to a checklist. Two of the maternity units observed in the study provided no guidelines at all on the monitoring of mothers and babies, and one hospital failed to inform medical staff on the dosage of Syntocinon that should be administered to mothers.

Mary Godfrey – the State Claims Agency´s clinical risk advisor – said that the results of the study showed that a consistent set of guidelines was needed to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, and to prevent more claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon being made against the HSE.

Her comments were supported by Dr Coulter-Smith who, speaking on Newstalk´s Lunchtime Show, commented “The issue with each of the maternity units having their own rules on its use means doctors moving from one to another don’t have common set of guidelines to follow.”

However both medical experts failed to comment on one alarming fact uncovered by the study – that none of the maternity units attempts to obtain consent from the mothers before administering the drug. If the State Claims Agency is genuine about reducing the number of claims for birth injuries due to Syntocinon, they will also have to address the issue of “informed consent”.

Read More

Judge Approves €1.5 Million Compensation for Delayed Birth Cerebral Palsy

A High Court judge has approved an interim settlement of compensation for delayed birth cerebral palsy for a teenage girl who was deprived oxygen in the womb, allegedly due to medical negligence.

On 11th October 1999, Mary Malee (now 14 years of age) was born at the Mayo General Hospital by emergency Caesarean section after there had been an alleged delay by hospital staff in communicating her mother´s condition and finding a consultant to assist with the delivery.

Two days prior to Mary´s birth, her mother – Maura Malee of Swinford, County Mayo – had attended the consultant who had delivered her three previous children, but was told that, as he was about to start treatment for cancer, he would be unavailable for Mary´s delivery.

The consultant advised Maura that arrangements would be made for another consultant to be present at the birth, but the following day when Maura attended her GP, she was advised to go to hospital immediately as she was displaying symptoms of pre-eclampsia.

On arrival at Mayo General Hospital, Maura was transferred to the labour ward, where she underwent a CTG shortly before 6:00am which revealed a series of decelerations. The first consultant that was contacted was unavailable and a second consultant arrived shortly before 7:00am.

According to evidence in court, there was an alleged delay in communicating the foetal distress in the womb, and the Caesarean procedure did not get underway until after 7:20am – due to which, it was claimed, Mary suffered from a lack of oxygen and was born with cerebral palsy.

Through her early years, Mary has been able to attend mainstream school and, despite being confined to a wheelchair, hopes to attend university when she grows older. She is currently cared for by her parents, but aware that this arrangement could not last forever, Maura Malee made a claim for compensation for delayed birth cerebral palsy on behalf of her daughter against the Mayo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In the claim for delayed birth cerebral palsy compensation it was alleged that there had been a failure to intervene and initiate a Caesarean delivery in a timely manner, or to ensure that a paediatrician was present at Mary´s birth – who was known to be suffering distress and was likely to require expert resuscitation

Both the Mayo General Hospital and the HSE their liability for Mary´s birth injuries; but, as Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court was told, both agreed to an interim settlement of compensation for delayed birth cerebral palsy amounting €1.5 million and a further assessment of Mary´s needs within two years pending the introduction of a structured compensation system.

In court, Mary read out a statement in which she remarked “It would have been appreciated had the HSE/Mayo General Hospital said they were sorry”, after which Judge Irvine approved the settlement of compensation for a delayed birth cerebral palsy and adjourned the hearing.

Read More

Mixed Opinion over Judge Murphy´s Proposed Symphysiotomy Compensation Settlements

Judge Yvonne Murphy´s proposals for symphysiotomy compensation settlements are due to be heard by the Cabinet within the next few weeks, but already opinion is divided over whether they are good or bad for the survivors of the controversial childbirth procedure.

 Judge Murphy was asked to compile proposals for symphysiotomy compensation settlements last year, after the Government withdrew their support for a cross-party private members’ Bill that would have provided a window in the Statute of Limitations to allow the survivors to make their claims for symphysiotomy through the court system.

In order to make up for their policy reversal (due to potential legal challenges from insurance companies) the Government is looking to introduce an ex-gratia scheme of symphysiotomy compensation settlements similar to that agreed with the former residents of Magdalene laundries; however, the success of this proposal will also rely on the support of the insurance industry, as around 80 percent of the procedures were performed in private hospitals.

Symphysiotomy survivors are divided on whether the proposed symphysiotomy compensation settlements are appropriate – several hundred Magdalene claimants received payments ranging from €11,500 to €100,000. It is also not known whether awards of symphysiotomy compensation would be paid out in instalments or in a single lump sum, or if the estates of deceased women who be entitled for compensation.

Some survivors of the symphysiotomy procedure have indicated they would accept payments similar to the Magdalene laundry settlements with no admission of liability from the State. However, members of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group say that compensation settlements should be more in line with the award of €591,297 that was made to Tracy Nelson in a court hearing last year.

Spokesperson for the SOS group – Marie O´Connor – said “It’s not unreasonable to insist that cases are treated as medical negligence. These women have lifetimes of suffering and lost opportunities behind them. Whether it was horse-riding, gymnastics or gardening, they could never do it again”.

Read More

Judge Awards Compensation for Medical Negligence after Caesarean

A woman has been awarded compensation for medical negligence after a Caesarean operation which she claims resulted in a near-death experience.

Honey Larkin from Letterkenny in County Donegal, brought her action against consultant gynaecologist Eddie Aboud and the Health Service Executive (HSE) following the events after the birth of her child by Caesarean section at the Letterkenny General Hospital in January 2008.

Forty-year-old Honey claimed that, after her operation, she began to haemorrhage internally and her signs of distress were overlooked by the hospital´s staff. Honey alleges that she had a near-death experience due to losing more than half of her blood volume while haemorrhaging and because a second operation to stop the bleeding was delayed for more than an hour when her condition was acknowledged.

Claiming that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to medical negligence, Honey also stated in her action that neither the staff at the hospital nor her gynaecologist checked for signs of bleeding after the initial surgery, and that – when the cause of her distress was identified – there was a failure to attach due significance to the bleeding or act appropriately within a reasonable timeframe.

Both Mr Aboud and the HSE contested Honey´s claim for compensation for medical negligence after a Caesarean birth; arguing that she was treated appropriately throughout and after the birth of her child and in a timely manner once her internal bleeding had been recognised. However, Honey persisted with her compensation claim for medical negligence after a Caesarean, and the case was heard before Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court.

In the High Court hearing, Judge Cross was told that no internal bleeding had been apparent when Mr Aboud had finished the childbirth procedure; but, when the gynaecologist was called back to attend to Honey, he performed the operation quickly and successfully to stop the haemorrhaging. Judge Cross said he believed that Mr Aboud could not be held responsible for any of the trauma suffered by Honey and dismissed from the case.

After considering the evidence in relation to the delay Honey experienced once the haemorrhaging had been identified, he found that the Letterkenny General Hospital failed in their duty of care towards Honey, and ordered that the HSE pay her €25,000 compensation for medical negligence after her Caesarean operation.

Read More