The High Court in Ireland has resolved a claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence in favour of a seven year old girl who suffered brain damage.
When Ava Kiernan from Duleek in County Meath was three months old in April 2008, she developed the symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) – a rapid expansion of her head´s circumference and bulges appearing as “soft spots” around her skull.
Ava was examined by a public health nurse, who failed to notice the expansion of the girl´s head or recall her for a further examination four weeks later. An incorrect measurement of Ava´s head in September 2008 also disguised the symptoms of hydrocephalus – despite concerns being raised by her mother, Ruth.
As a result of the failure to identify the symptoms of water on the brain, Ava developed permanent mental and physical disabilities. On her daughter´s behalf, Ruth Kiernan made a claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The HSE contested the claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence, and the case went to the High Court in Dublin, where it was heard over three weeks by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
Judge Cross found in Ava´s favour, ruling that if Ava had been recalled four weeks after the initial measurement of her head circumference, or if the measurement of her head in September 2008 had been conducted correctly, water on the brain would have been suspected and Ava would have been referred to a specialist.
The judge said that the public health nurse´s failure to act was “materially causative” to Ava´s mental and physical disabilities and he adjourned the claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence in order that an assessment could be conducted of Ava´s future needs to determine an appropriate compensation settlement.
Update June 2015: Ava´s case was reconvened on 9th June, when an interim settlement of compensation amounting to €2.4 million was approved by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty. The interim settlement of Ava´s claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence is for the next ten years, after which her condition will be re-assessed.