Claimant Allowed to Pursue Compensation for the Failure to Act on Scan Results

A High Court judge in Dublin has allowed a claimant to pursue compensation for the failure to act on scan results which resulted in the death of his wife.

Since 2001, Dolores Hewitt had been on a monitoring regime at Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan after making a full recovery from breast cancer. In February 2007, an ultrasound scan revealed two potentially cancerous lesions on Dolores´ liver, but no immediate action was taken.

Five months later, Dolores met up by chance with the consultant who had treated her for her breast cancer. The meeting led to further scans being conducted, that revealed further lesions on her liver, and Dolores started a new course of treatment. Unfortunately the treatment came too late to stop the cancer spreading and Dolores died in June 2010.

In January 2012, Dolores´ widowed husband – Joseph Hewitt from Navan in County Meath – claimed compensation for the failure to act on scan results against Our Lady´s Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). In his legal action, Joseph alleged that Our Lady´s Hospital had been negligent by not responding to the early indicators of cancer when his wife had a relevant medical history.

The HSE contested the claim for compensation for the failure to act on scan results on the grounds that the alleged failure to act dated back to events in 2007, and therefore a claim made in 2012 was outside of the two years Statute of Limitations. The HSE applied for the case to be dismissed, but Joseph opposed the application and the case went before Ms Justice Marie Baker at the Dublin High Court.

At the hearing, Judge Baker said that the HSE was correct that Joseph was outside the Statute of Limitations to claim compensation for the failure to act on scan results in 2007 but – as the claim for compensation had been made within nineteen months of his wife´s death – Joseph was still entitled to claim compensation for her wrongful death, and the failure to act on the scan results was the causative event that led to Dolores´ death.