1. A Patient v The HSE and Others, High Court, Quirke J, 8 May 2009

The Plaintiff sued for personal injuries suffered due to the Defendants’ alleged negligence and breach of duty. The Plaintiff showed classic symptoms of volvulus following his birth, but the Defendants failed to diagnose his condition, and discharged him from hospital. A volvulus is an intestinal obstruction, created when the intestine twists, because it is not properly secured to the abdominal wall.

The Plaintiff developed ischemia, which is a consequence of deprivation of blood and oxygen to the bowel, which results in necrosis of the affected part of the bowel, which becomes gangrenous. The resulting condition is called necrotising enterocolitis.

The Plaintiff was readmitted to hospital after four days, when the obstruction was diagnosed and surgically corrected. He was not expected to survive, but did, and remained in hospital for seven months. He underwent several extensive surgeries, including five surgical laparotomy procedures and repeated bowel resections. Less than 1 per cent of his small bowel remains.

On returning home, the Plaintiff required constant intensive care, including intravenous feeding in a completely sterile environment, artificially created within his own home. Both his parents abandoned fulltime gainful employment to care for him.

Quirke J described the Plaintiff’s injuries as “catastrophic”, necessitating ongoing medical care. The Judge acknowledged that he will suffer “permanent distressing and embarrassing symptoms which will cause him to be socially isolated and will greatly diminish his capacity to obtain any kind of remunerative employment”. He also requires ongoing medical care.

At trial, the Defendants conceded that the injuries resulted from the doctor’s and hospital’s negligence and breach of duty. The issues of causation, the apportionment of liability and quantum fell before the Court.

After the birth, the Consultant Paediatrician was informed that the Plaintiff had vomited bile-stained fluid, a typical symptom of volvulus, twice. It was accepted that his decision to keep the Plaintiff under observation, rather than to refer him for surgical investigation or x-rays, was negligent. The hospital’s nursing and medical staff failed to investigate and record the Plaintiff’s symptoms properly.

The Defendants were held to be jointly and severally liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries and both were ordered to compensate him. The hospital was entitled to a contribution of 75 per cent from the doctor. The Irish Times reported that damages were awarded in the region of €3,000,000.  

  1. Irish Times: Thursday, 11 June 2009

Lavan J approved a settlement to the value of €485,000, in respect of a young girl, who allegedly sustained an arm and shoulder injury at birth. The Defendants, namely the HSE and a Junior Paediatric doctor, did not admit liability or negligence. The Plaintiff now suffers from Erb’s Palsy, a paralysis which caused permanent deformity.  

  1. Irish Times: Friday, 12 June 2009

A 24 year old man, who was born with brain injuries, right sided motor dysfunction and mild cerebral palsy, agreed a €3.35 million settlement in his action alleging negligence during his birth at a regional maternity hospital. It was alleged that the Defendants failed to respond properly to changes in the foetal heart rate, and inappropriately delayed performing a Caesarean section. The Defendants agreed to negotiate the apportionment of liability between themselves.