Compensation for Deafness due to GP Negligence Approved in Court

The High Court in Dublin has approved a settlement of compensation for deafness due to GP negligence in favour of an eighteen-year-old woman.

On 29th January 1998, when Laura Kavanagh was just thirteen months of age, her mother telephoned the family GP – Dr Frank Malone of Greystones in County Wicklow – to say that Laura had become ill with a high temperature, was lethargic and had severe fatigue.

When Laura´s condition deteriorated, Laura´s mother rang the GP surgery again and spoke with Dr Malone´s partner – Dr Paul Crean. Dr Crean said he would make a house call after surgery and – 3½ hours later – he examined Laura and diagnosed a bowel infection.

The following day, Laura was no better and her mother requested another house call. She was told that it would be at least three hours before a doctor would be available and, when Laura later showed signs of improvement, her mother cancelled the house call.

However, Laura´s condition deteriorated once again the following day and – on 31st January 1998 – an on-call doctor visited the family´s home and immediately admitted Laura to hospital, where she was diagnosed with severe meningitis. Due to contracting the disease, and it being allowed to develop, Laura has lost her sense of hearing and has to communicate through sign language and lip reading.

Through her mother – Simone Kavanagh from Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow – Laura claimed compensation for deafness due to GP negligence, alleging in her claim that there had been a failure to ensure proper care and continuity of care, and a failure to attend Laura in good time after her mother had rung the GP surgery.

The allegations were denied by the two GPs but after court proceedings were issued, a €5 million settlement of compensation for deafness due to GP negligence was negotiated. As the claim had been made on behalf of a child, the settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure that it was in Laura´s best interests.

At the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard the sequence of events that led to Laura´s illness and the consequences of the misdiagnosis of meningitis. It was explained to the court that the €5 million settlement of compensation for deafness due to GP negligence was being made without an admission of liability.

Judge Irvine approved the settlement, commenting that money would never give Laura the life she was meant to have.