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.”