RC –v– HSE & Dr John P Corristine
On 26th November 2013, the High Court approved a settlement achieved by Augustus Cullen Law in a claim on behalf of a 12 year old girl who suffered from acute profound asphyxia during labour as a result of failure of the midwifery and obstetric staff at Portlaoise General Hospital to recognise the obvious signs of fetal distress demonstrated on the CTG trace. The matter was settled on a 2 year interim basis, for a sum of €2.6 million plus the costs of the proceedings. It was also alleged that the Defendants failed to give adequate consideration to the complete absence of liquor during labour and that they also failed to monitor the maternal uterine contractions during labour, which monitoring is essential to understand the significance of abnormalities in the fetus’ heart rate. Instead of intervening to perform an emergency caesarean section, induction of labour was continued and near the end of that period, the infant Plaintiff suffered an acute profound asphyxia. The child was born in poor condition, having suffered the effects of hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy in the neonatal period and she went on to develop dyskinetic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. The minor Plaintiff has suffered significant cognitive impairment and severe motor impairment and requires assistance with all activities of daily living. She will never life an independent life and at the time of settlement, she was 12 years old. In the various expert reports provided during the proceedings, it was noted that the minor Plaintiff’s parents have provided exemplary care to her since her birth.
It was pleaded in the case that Dr Corristine, the mother’s private Obstetrician, advised the family shortly after the birth that the minor Plaintiff’s injuries could not have been prevented and that the CTG trace was perfect at all times. They were advised that the injuries to the minor Plaintiff could not have been foreseen or prevented and may have been related to a poorly functioning placenta. All of these things turned out to be inaccurate, but due to the explanation given to the family at the time, it was some 9 years before they took legal advice on the matter, following a radio interview with Michael Boylan on the issue of Cerebral Palsy and Medical Negligence. As a result of the information they were given at the time of the birth, the minor Plaintiff received very little assistance during these years in the areas of Physiotherapy, Speech & Language Therapy, Assistive Technology etc. When the case was reviewed by the Augustus Cullen Law Medical Negligence team, it was felt that there were CTG abnormalities and that an expert obstetric opinion should be sought. Strongly supportive expert reports were received on the issues around liability. Proceedings were issued against the Defendants and further reports on liability were supportive.
The Trial of the matter was specially fixed for 26th November 2013 and on 15th October 2013 Liability was admitted by the Hospital 6 weeks before the Trial date, notwithstanding that same had not been admitted in their Defence delivered on 19th March 2013. In due course, the Solicitors for the Hospital came on record for the Second Named Defendant and liability was admitted on behalf of Dr Corristine on 31st October 2013. Following the admissions of liability, at the instigation of the Defendant, a mediation was arranged between the parties for 11th November 2013 and ultimately, an interim settlement was agreed to cover the Plaintiff’s damages and care requirements for the next 2 years. A total sum of €2.6 million plus costs was agreed, which represented the full value of the claim for care requirements for 2 years with lump sums for loss of earnings, general damages and accommodation needs. The settlement was reached on the basis that the matter be adjourned for 2 years pending the introduction by the Government of legislation to provide for an annual Periodic Payment for life, index linked to cover future care costs. On the expiration of that period, the Plaintiff will claim further damages for care costs, aids and appliances etc on an annual basis.
Within the interim damages award of €2.6 million is an amount of €450,000.00 to cover the Plaintiff’s care needs over the next 2 years. A further sum was furnished to make provision for aids and appliances, Physiotherapy, Neurophysiotherapy and assistive technology for the next 2 years in the total amount of €284,370.79. The interim settlement also provided €35,000.00 towards 2 years assistance from a Special Needs Assistant and catered for future housing accommodation in the sum of €550,000.00.
In addition to all of the above, the Defendants apologised to the minor Plaintiff and her family in open Court for what had occurred.
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26 November 2013