Nadine Wilkin (a minor) –v- HSE
On 11th October 2016, Mr Justice Cross in the High Court approved a settlement achieved by Augustus Cullen Law in a complicated birth injury claim on behalf of a 20 year old Donegal woman who, it was alleged, suffered a catastrophic brain injury due to negligence on the part of the midwifery and obstetric staff caring for her during her mother’s labour. The Plaintiff was a minor at the time proceedings were issued. Liability was not admitted by the Defendant in the case, but the Plaintiff’s legal team alleged that Nadine Wilkin suffered from severe asphyxia shortly before her delivery at 11.28am (when there was no CTG monitoring in place) and that same continued for a few minutes after birth resulting in brain damage and quadriplegic dystonic Cerebral Palsy. The Plaintiff’s neonatal expert also criticised the resuscitation of the baby, which he said was inadequate and lead to the hypoxic insult continuing for several minutes after delivery.
They alleged that these injuries resulted from the failure of midwifery and obstetric staff at the Defendant Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital, to proceed in a timely manner to carry out a caesarean section when the Plaintiff’s mother was draining meconium, which had progressed from meconium grade I to meconium grade III. Meconium is made up of materials which an infant ingests in the uterus and is normally retained in the infant’s bowel until after birth, but sometimes it is expelled into the amniotic fluid prior to birth or during labour and delivery. This can be a sign of foetal distress and the Plaintiff’s experts were of the view that both the progression of meconium from grade I to grade III and the risks to the child of inhaling grade III meconium (which can cause severe respiratory distress) necessitated earlier delivery of the baby in this case.
The Plaintiff’s midwifery expert was critical that medical advice was not sought immediately at 8.45am. When medical advice was obtained at 9.40am, a decision was taken to carry out an emergency caesarean section. However, Nadine was not actually delivered until 11.28am, some 1 hour and 48 minutes later. It was the Plaintiff’s case that, but for this delay, Nadine would have avoided her injuries.
The Defendant experts had different views on the cause of Nadine’s injury. Some of the defence experts felt that her injury may have been due to infection and one of their obstetric experts opined that if her injury was indeed due to acute hypoxia, then the insult may have actually occurred before Nadine’s mother presented at the Hospital.
The matter was fixed for Trial for 11th October 2016, but settled without an admission of liability at a mediation on 4th October 2016.
The Plaintiff in the case was very severely injured. She requires care for all of her activities of daily living and is completely dependent on other people. She is PEG fed through a tube in her stomach and is non-verbal. She cannot walk and has very little useful function of her hands and she has been classified as having the most severe level of impaired motor function. She is however a very bright and sociable young woman and is believed to have very good understanding and interaction with others.
The Plaintiff’s claim included claims for suitable accommodation, loss of earnings and general damages for pain and suffering as well as the cost of ongoing requirements for the rest of her life such as nursing care, speech & language therapy, assistive technology, aids and appliances and physiotherapy.
The matter was ruled on 11th October 2016 for €6 million plus costs. However, it is worth noting that as part of the settlement, it was agreed that there will be an “uplift” on this amount, if appropriate, following the Supreme Court’s decision on the Real Rate of Return in the case of Gill Russell (A Minor) –v- HSE which is currently under appeal to the Supreme Court.
If you have any further queries, please contact Joice Carthy, Managing Partner.
- http://www.tv3.ie/3player/show/633/115565/0/ (video from 11.17 -12.16)
- http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/six-one-news-30003249/10634566/ (video from 19.57 – 21.48)
14 October 2016