Settlement of Claim for Cerebral Palsy Birth Injuries Approved by Judge

A judge at Dublin High Court has approved the settlement of a claim for cerebral palsy birth injuries and criticised the State Claims Agency for taking so long to resolve the case.

On 22nd July 2007, Dylan Gaffney was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in a poor condition after an emergency Caesarean Section had been performed on his mother – Jean. Dylan´s birth injuries were exacerbated by there being no paediatrician immediately available to provide adequate resuscitation and he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to being deprived of oxygen in the womb.

Dylan´s mother had previously requested a Caesarean Section delivery for Dylan, as her first daughter had been born by emergency C-Section after 51 hours of labour, and she had miscarried a second child. Her obstetrician had dissuaded her from having one, despite an ultrasound two days before Dylan´s birth indicating that he weighed nine pounds, four ounces.

On the day of Dylan´s birth, Jean Gaffney had been admitted into the hospital in the morning after her waters spontaneously burst. She was administered Syntocinon to accelerate her contractions, but this had the effect of increasing the level of distress Dylan was experiencing in the womb. Rather than conduct an emergency Caesarean Section immediately, medical staff at the hospital waited until after 2.00pm in the afternoon to deliver Dylan.

After seeking legal advice, Jean – from Kilcohan Park in Waterford – made a compensation claim for cerebral palsy birth injuries on behalf of her son against the Waterford Regional Hospital and the Health Service executive (HSE). Jean´s solicitor followed up the claim by writing to the State Claims Agency with the evidence of negligence supporting the claim, but the State Claims Agency denied that there had been negligence and refused to consider Jean´s compensation claim for cerebral palsy birth injuries.

Court proceedings were issued while Jean and her partner – Thomas Hayes – put their lives aside to care for Dylan. But shortly before the compensation claim for cerebral palsy birth injuries was due to be heard, liability was admitted and negotiations commenced to agree a financial settlement.

At the Dublin High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that a lump sum payment of €8.5 million had been agreed to settle the claim for cerebral palsy birth injuries. Judge Irvine approved the settlement, but criticised the conduct of the State Claims Agency for the delay in admitting liability, and causing additional stress for Dylan and his family. She said that this was the second case within a week where the actions of the State Claims Agency were “highly regrettable”.