Judge Approves Settlement of Meningitis Misdiagnosis Claim

A judge has approved the €5.6 million settlement of a meningitis misdiagnosis claim made on behalf of a young girl who had both legs avoidably amputated.

On the morning of 10th July 2005, the parents of the three-year-old girl phoned the South Doc out-of-hours doctor´s service in Cork, and expressed concerns about their daughter´s symptoms of a rash on her stomach, a high temperature, drowsiness and vomiting.

They were told to bring her into the South Doc clinic and, at 5:00am that morning, the girl was examined by Dr Leon Britz, who diagnosed tonsillitis and sent the family home. However, the young girl´s condition deteriorated in the following hours, and the family returned to the clinic at 9:30am.

On this occasion, a diagnosis of meningitis was made. The girl was taken to the A&E Department of Cork University Hospital, where she was administered antibiotics, and later transferred to Our Lady´s Children´s Hospital in Crumlin, where tragically she had to have both legs amputated below the knee. The girl, now fifteen years of age, underwent 132 operations over the following twelve years.

Through her mother, the girl made a meningitis misdiagnosis claim against Dr Britz and South West Doctors on Call Ltd – the providers of the South Doc out-of-hours doctor´s service. In the meningitis misdiagnosis claim it was alleged the girl suffered “profound consequences” due to the misdiagnosis and the opportunity was missed to administer antibiotics at an earlier stage.

Liability was admitted by the defendants and a settlement of the meningitis misdiagnosis clam amounting to €5.6 million was agreed between the parties. As the legal action had been taken on behalf of a minor, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge before it could be finalised to ensure it was in the girl´s best interests.

Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the sequence of events on 10th July 2005 and of the “profound consequences”. After hearing that the girl was doing well at school and just about to sit her Junior Cert exams, the judge approved the settlement – congratulating her parents for the care they had given the girl and noting that the outcome could have been far worse.