Teenager (16) With Profound Disability Awarded €23.5m in Highest Personal Injuries Action Ever in Ireland

22 April 2021

The complainant is now afflicted with a profound disability, including being non-verbal, having to be fed through a tube, being doubly incontinent, and attending a special-needs school.

A teenage girl has been awarded a €23.5m settlement by the High Court following the circumstances of her birth, the highest ever amount awarded in a personal injuries action in Ireland.

Although the girl was in good health throughout her mother’s labour, the court heard how she had been “next to death” when delivered.

Intermittent Monitoring of Foetal Heart Rate

It was alleged that, while there was a continual monitoring of the foetal heart rate at the onset of labour, the monitoring became intermittent for the final two hours prior to delivery.

As a result of the purported negligence by medical staff, it was claimed there was a failure to recognise the signs of foetal distress, and that they further failed to intervene to deliver the child prior to a significant period of oxygen deprivation which caused severe brain injury. This brain injury in turn led to dyskinetic cerebral palsy with permanent and serious neurological disabilities.

Dr John O’Mahony SC outlined that the complainant had been doing well prior to delivery, but that in the last two hours appropriate monitoring was not continued and that neurological abnormalities were not detected. He further commented that this two-hour window was “crucial” evidence of negligence. He contended that the complainant would not have suffered her injuries had correct monitoring procedures been continued in the final hours of her mother’s labour.

In its defence, the HSE argued that correct guidelines were followed, denying negligence and providing no admission of liability. Additionally, they argued that warning signs were only detected in the eight minutes prior to birth, at which stage it was too late for any medical intervention that would have altered the outcome.

Profound Disability

The complainant (16) is now afflicted with a profound disability, including being non-verbal, having to be fed through a tube, being doubly incontinent, and attending a special-needs school.

To date, the family of the complainant have lived in rental accommodation that is wholly unsuitable for her needs. The settlement is intended to provide for a suitable home with a hydrotherapy pool, as well as to provide for the extensive care, therapies, and equipment that she requires.

No Admission of Liability

The defence argued that correct guidelines were followed, denying negligence and providing no admission of liability. Additionally, they argued that warning signs were only detected in the eight minutes prior to birth, at which stage it was too late for any medical intervention that would have altered the outcome.

Speaking in a statement read after the hearing, counsel for the family described how the amount represented a significant figure in personal injuries ligation, and that the amount awarded would go a long way towards helping the complainant have a better quality of life in the future.

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