A settlement of compensation for a child´s cerebral palsy injury has been approved at Dublin High Court despite issues over negligence and liability.
On 9th June 1998, Emma O´Donnell was born at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin by suction birth. Soon after she had been delivered, Emma started turning blue and suffered a series of seizures. She was diagnosed with a cerebral palsy injury and now requires full-time care due to an intellectual disability and behavioural problems.
Now sixteen years of age, Emma has been cared for by her father – James Forde from Aklow in County Wicklow – since 2007, when her mother was diagnosed with a significant bi-polar condition and institutionalised. James gave up his job to look after Emma and has been her full-time carer ever since.
On Emma´s behalf, James claimed compensation for a child´s cerebral palsy injury against the National Maternity Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE), but he encountered difficulties establishing a connection between the standard of care Emma had received before and after her birth, and the cerebral palsy.
Solicitors engaged by James on Emma´s behalf attempted to recover €9 million compensation for a child´s cerebral palsy injury, but the HSE capped the value of the claim at €6 million and said that the payment was subject to full proof of negligence being established.
After a period of negotiation, a compromise was agreed without admission of liability from the hospital or HSE that would see Emma receive €3 million compensation for a child´s cerebral palsy injury. As the claim had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement first had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in Emma´s best interests.
Consequently, at Dublin High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told the tragic circumstances of Emma´s birth and details of her life to date. The judge heard that the claim for compensation had been brought late in Emma´s life due to the difficulty of establishing negligence and liability, and that the hospital had provided a letter of consent to settle the claim for €3 million.
After reviewing the case, Judge Kearns agreed with Emma´s solicitors that it would be difficult to establish full proof of negligence and liability if the case went to a full hearing. The judge approved the settlement of compensation for a child´s cerebral palsy injury – commenting that the care that had been provided by James for Emma was “heroic”.