Widower Entitled to Claim for Wrongful Death due to Failure to Act on Scan Results

A widower has been told that he can claim for a wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results after a High Court judge rejected the HSE´s application to dismiss the case.

Joseph Hewitt made his claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results following the death of his wife Dolores in June 2010. Dolores had made a full recovery from breast cancer in 2001, and was undergoing monitoring at Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan, County Meath; when – in February 2007 – a routine scan detected two cancerous lesions on her liver.

The scan results were not acted upon at the time by the hospital, and it was only when Dolores had a chance meeting with a surgeon five months later that the results of her scan were discussed. Dolores´ conversation with the surgeon prompted further ultrasound scans to be conducted, and further lesions were discovered on Dolores´ liver. Dolores started undergoing treatment for cancer once again, but the condition had progressed too far to respond to the treatment and Dolores died in June 2010.

Joseph – her widower – made a claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results against Our Lady´s Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). He alleged in his action that, had Our Lady´s Hospital acted on Dolores´ scan results within a reasonable period of time in February 2007,  her wrongful death would have been avoided.

Our Lady´s Hospital and the HSE contested the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results, arguing that Joseph´s allegations were founded on Dolores´ treatment in 2007, and that the claim for hospital negligence made in 2012 was outside the two-year period allowed to make a personal injury claim established by the Civil Liability Act of 1961 (known as the “Statute of Limitations”).

The HSE applied for the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results to be dismissed, but Joseph´s solicitor advised him to oppose the application and the case for dismissal was subsequently heard at the High Court in Dublin by Ms Justice Marie Baker.

Ms Justice Marie Baker agreed with the HSE´s argument that the time period had expired for claiming compensation for hospital negligence that allegedly occurred in 2007; however, the judge said that Joseph´s the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results, related to the death of his wife in June 2010, and therefore his January 2012 claim was still within the period of time allowed by the Statute of Limitations.