A WOMAN who claimed she contracted a rare brain disease from parrots said she felt “free” last night after settling a damages claim for more than €7.5m.
A lump sum of €3m is to be paid immediately to Patricia Ingle (22) who is paralysed and brain-damaged after contracting the disease in 2008.
She claims it happened while she was employed at the Petmania Store in Limerick.
Details of the High Court settlement were not disclosed but legal sources said it was believed to be the largest in such cases and could amount to more than €7.5m over her lifetime. A scheme of structured payments for her future care will be worked out under new legislation due to come into force.
Ms Ingle, formerly of Clarina Avenue, Ballinacurra, Weston, Limerick, is currently an in-patient at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
She is dependent on a ventilator, has to be tube fed and is in a wheelchair.
She took the action against the pet shop, its parent company O’Keeffes of Kilkenny Ltd, and the HSE over alleged negligent mismanagement of her condition. The claims were denied.
Afterwards, Ms Ingle, speaking with difficulty through a voicebox, said she was grateful for the legal assistance in her case.
“Only for it I would be imprisoned in a hospital room through no fault of my own. Now I am free,” she said.
She also thanked her family and friends and her solicitor Susie Elliot.
Earlier she said that if she had money, she would use it to learn how to eat, walk and swim and breathe properly. She felt it was embarrassing for her parents to act as her daytime carers.
Following talks yesterday, Dermot Gleeson for Ms Ingle told the court the HSE was happy she could now be released from the case.
Later yesterday Denis McCullough for Petmania and O’Keeffes said the remaining case between the HSE and his clients had been settled and could be struck out with no order.
At the opening of the trial last week, the court heard Ms Ingle began working for Petmania in 2007 when aged 19.
She was given no health and safety training or warnings about the dangers of working with animals, the court heard.
It was alleged she contracted the disease as a result of inhaling dust from the faeces of parrots suffering from chlamydia psittacosis — an airborne infection which can be transmitted from birds to humans.
The court also heard that the month before she became ill an internal inspection of the stores noted that the bird cages were dirty and that it scored six out of 12 in a hygiene rating.
On August 20, 2008, she suffered violent headaches and vomiting. She was sent to the Midwestern Hospital but was allowed home and told to rest. There was some slight improvement over the following 11 days, but on September 1 she became ill again and was admitted to hospital.
Her hospital records would have shown she worked with animals because she had previously attended hospital after being bitten by a rat.
She remained in the Midwestern for 58 hours before being transferred to Cork but by then had suffered brain damage and could not move her limbs or speak. She has remained in that condition since.
Her counsel told the court the remarkable thing was that Ms Ingle’s condition had deteriorated while she was in an acute hospital run by the HSE and entirely in the sight of medical practitioners.
He said doctors failed to recognise in time, despite numerous symptoms, that she needed a neurologist which was only available in Cork University Hospital. But by the time she reached Cork she was irreversibly brain damaged.