All Posts Tagged: birth accident compensation action

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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”.

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€2 Million Interim Settlement of a Birth Injuries Claim Approved at the High Court

A €2 million interim settlement of a birth injuries claim has been approved at the High Court in favour of a four-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.

Kevin Dunphy-English was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital on July 9th 2010 after being starved of oxygen in the womb prior to his delivery. He was described as being “neurologically compromised” and spent the first twenty-four days of his life in intensive care. Kevin now suffers with cerebral palsy, can only walk short distances and will be wheelchair-reliant in the future.

Through his mother – Jane Dunphy of Mooncoin in County Kilkenny – Kevin made a birth injuries claim for compensation against the Health Service Executive (HSE). In the legal action it was alleged that a foetal blood sample had been taken at 1:40am prior to a decrease in the baby´s heart beat being recorded at 2:30am.

It was claimed that if a further foetal blood sample had been taken subsequently to the deceleration of the baby´s heart beat, a decision would have been taken to intervene and deliver Kevin earlier. An investigation into the circumstances of Kevin´s birth found that his birth injuries could have been avoided if he had been delivered an hour earlier.

In 2013, the HSE accepted that there had been a mismanagement of Kevin´s birth by failing to effect a timely delivery. The HSE conceded liability and settled claims for emotional distress made by both of Kevin´s parents. The case then went to the High Court to organise an interim settlement of the birth injuries claim.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross met with Kevin privately in his chambers. The judge learned that Kevin is at pre-school and it is hoped that he will be able to join a mainstream class when he goes to school full time. The judge described Kevin as “a lovely little lad”, and he praised the efforts the boy´s parents had put in to raising him.

The judge awarded Kevin €2 million as an interim settlement of the birth injuries claim, and adjourned the case for four years to allow for an assessment of Kevin´s future needs. When the case is reconvened, Kevin´s parents will be able to choose from a lump sum settlement or a structured settlement if legislation is introduced in time to allow for periodic payments.

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High Court Judge Tells Plaintiff to Wait for Structured Settlement System

A High Court judge has declined a plaintiff´s request for a final settlement of their birth injuries claim and told them that a structured settlement system should soon be introduced.

The request for a final settlement of the birth injuries claim was made by Judith Corroon from Mallow in County Cork on behalf of her son – Connor – who was born at the Cork City General Hospital in February 1995 after being starved of oxygen in the womb.

Connor (now nineteen years of age) suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Nonetheless his mother hopes that he will be able to go to college, and she told Mr Justice Bernard Barton at the High Court that the series of assessments he has to undergo before each interim payment of compensation is stopping him from getting on with his life.

Connor was the first plaintiff in Ireland to be awarded an interim settlement of compensation for catastrophic injuries pending the introduction of a structured settlement system when – in 2010 – he was awarded €1.6 million compensation.

With there still being no structured settlement in place last year, Connor had to undergo another series of assessments before being awarded a further €765,000. His case was again adjourned in the hope that legislation to provide a system of periodic payments would be introduced.

However, no such legislation has been introduced and, on Connor´s behalf, his mother appealed to the High Court that this third interim settlement of compensation for birth injuries should be a full and final payment.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Bernard Barton denied Judith´s request for a full and final payment, explaining to her that he had recently received a consultation paper from the Department of Justice, aims to introduce a structured settlement system next year through the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill.

Judge Barton said it would be catastrophic for Connor if the court were to approve a final settlement prior to this Bill being introduced and the money run out later in his life. He approved a third interim settlement of Connor´s claim for birth injuries compensation for €1.45 million and adjourned the case for a further five years.

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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”.

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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.

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Claim for Delay in Delivering Child Resolved after Hearing at the High Court

A claim for the delay in delivering a child, made on behalf of a thirteen year old girl against the Coombe Hospital in Dublin, has been resolved after a hearing at the High Court.

Katie Martin from Trim in County Meath was born on November 9th 2000 at the Coombe Hospital after her mother – Fiona – had been admitted to the hospital very early in the morning complaining of having irregular contractions.

Following her admission into hospital, Fiona underwent a CTG trace which – it was alleged in court – registered abnormal readings that suggested Katie was being deprived of oxygen in the womb.

However, it took nearly an hour and a half for an emergency Caesarean Section to be organised and, when Katie was delivered, she showed no signs of life having suffered a cardiac arrest.

Staff at the hospital were fortunately able to resuscitate Katie, but the infant had suffered severe brain injuries due to a lack of oxygen in the womb and she will require constant care for the rest of her life.

Fiona Martin made a compensation claim for the delay in delivering a child on her daughter´s behalf, but the Coombe Hospital denied its liability for Katie´s injuries, and argued that Katie was deprived of oxygen in the womb before her mother arrived at the hospital.

The hospital argued that that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent Katie´s brain injury and prepared a full defence against the compensation claim for the delay in delivering a child.

However, at the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that a settlement of €4 million compensation for a delayed birth injury had been negotiated without admission of liability from the hospital, and that the case was before her for approval of the settlement.

The judge was told the circumstances of Katie´s brain damage before approving the settlement and commenting that it was a good one in the circumstances.

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Judge Approves Settlement of Claim against HSE for Birth Injuries

A judge at the High Court has approved the settlement of a claim against the HSE for birth injuries which resulted in a young boy suffering from cerebral palsy.

Six-year-old Dylan Gaffney from Kilcohan Park in Waterford was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in a poor condition on July 22nd 2007, after his mother – Jean – had undergone an emergency Caesarean Section and no paediatrician was immediately available to resuscitate him.

Jean Gaffney had earlier requested a Caesarean Section delivery for Dylan; as her first daughter was delivered in an emergency operation after 51 hours of labour and she had miscarried a second child. However, her obstetrician had suggested a natural birth would be preferable, despite an ultrasound prior to Dylan´s birth indicating that he weighed nine pounds and four ounces.

The ultrasound was conducted two days prior to Dylan´s birth when Jean had attended the Waterford Regional Hospital because she believed her waters had broken. She was assured that everything was okay and given an antenatal appointment for five days later; but, on the morning of the 22nd July, Jean went into spontaneous labour and was admitted into the hospital.

Jean was given the drug oxytocic to stimulate her contractions and told to start pushing. In the High Court, Jean´s solicitor stated that the directions given to Jean were inappropriate in the circumstances, and a Caesarean should have been performed straight away. Instead, hospital staff waited until after 2.00pm in the afternoon before transferring Jean to theatre.

Unfortunately, Dylan had been denied oxygen in the womb and, when he was born, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.

Jean sought legal advice and made a claim against the HSE for birth injuries on her son´s behalf. Jean and her solicitor also wrote the State Claims Agency in June 2009 with evidence of the hospital negligence that resulted in Dylan´s condition compiled by an independent medical expert.

Despite the evidence clearly indicating that Dylan´s birth injuries could have been avoided and were attributable to hospital negligence before, during and after his delivery, the State Claims Agency failed to acknowledged the hospital´s responsibility for Dylan´s condition and refused to consider Jean´s claim against the HSE for birth injuries.

Court proceedings were reluctantly issued, while Jean and her partner – Thomas Hayes – put their lives to one side in order to care for Dylan. It was only shortly before Jean´s claim against the HSE for birth injuries was due to be heard in court that liability for Dylan´s cerebral palsy was admitted, and negotiations started to find a suitable settlement.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court in Dublin was told that an agreement had been reached for Dylan to receive a lump sum payment of €8.5 million. After hearing the circumstances of the claim against the HSE for birth injuries, the judge approved the settlement; but criticised the conduct of the State Claims Agency and Health Service Executive for the delay in admitting liability – causing additional stress for Dylan and his family.

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