Calum Taaffe –v- The Coombe Hospital
On 6th October 2015, Mr Justice Cross in the High Court, approved a settlement achieved by Augustus Cullen Law in a claim on behalf of a 7 year old boy who, it was alleged, suffered from severe asphyxia during labour and delivery. The Plaintiff’s legal team alleged that the Plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the failure of midwifery and obstetric staff at the Defendant Hospital to recognise and react in a timely manner to signs of fetal distress demonstrated on the CTG trace and to deliver the boy earlier and that this delay caused hypoxia resulting in brain damage. It was also alleged on behalf of the Plaintiff that given that his mother had undergone a previous caesarean section for failure to progress in labour, she should have been warned of the risks of a natural delivery and given the option of a caesarean section in this pregnancy and had this offer been made, she would have chosen to have a caesarean section.
Liability was not admitted by the Defendant in the proceedings. Both negligence and causation were strongly disputed and causation, in particular, was very complex in this case. Whereas it was alleged by the Plaintiff’s legal team that the Plaintiff’s physical and cognitive difficulties and developmental delay, resulted from the Defendant’s negligence in failing to deliver the child at an earlier time and/or to offer this mother a caesarean section, the Defendant’s experts were of the view that the Plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by hypoxia (deprivation of oxygenated blood during labour and delivery), but rather were more likely to be due to an underlying genetic abnormality.
This case was particularly complex insofar as the Defendants contended that there was no injury shown on the brain scan and furthermore, the Plaintiff’s condition and presentation did not fit within the classical, commonly understood definition of “Cerebral Palsy”. Indeed he had not been diagnosed as having Cerebral Palsy. On the basis that the Court may have accepted that the brain imaging showed no injury, we believe this would be the first case where damages were successfully recovered in those circumstances. In addition, the Plaintiff’s motor problems were far less severe than would be expected for the type of and duration of insult to the Plaintiff’s brain contended for by the Plaintiff’s legal team. Furthermore, during the course of the proceedings, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with having Autistic Spectrum Disorder and the Defendants strongly argued that this was something which was almost universally accepted to have a genetic cause rather than being related in any way to an hypoxic injury, which the Plaintiff pleaded it was based on the views of the Plaintiff’s experts who felt there was a strong connection between the two. Both the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s experts produced large quantities of medical literature in support of their opposing views.
The case was therefore very novel and unusually complex and ran for 11 days in the High Court with every aspect of negligence and causation in dispute, including the grade of hypoxia suffered by the Plaintiff at the time of his birth and whether same was likely to have resulted in any kind of long term injury. The case ran until the end of July 2015, when the Courts closed for the Vacation and the matter was ruled before Mr Justice Cross on 6th October 2015 for a total amount of €2.15 million plus costs, most of which was required for care.
If you have any further queries, please contact Joice Carthy, Managing Partner.
07 December 2015