Interim Settlement of Meningitis Misdiagnosis Claim Approved in Court

The Dublin High Court has approved a €3.7 million interim settlement of a meningitis misdiagnosis claim in favour of a young boy who is now paralysed due to medical negligence.

In May 2004, seventeen-month-old Matthew McGrath was referred to Wexford General Hospital by the family GP when he started vomiting fluids and was uncharacteristically drowsy. Matthew was diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B and admitted into the special care baby unit at the hospital.

Matthew´s condition deteriorated overnight and he went into shock. Matthew underwent a lumbar puncture procedure to confirm a diagnosis of suspected meningitis – despite guidelines recommending that the procedure should not be conducted when a patient is in shock.

During the procedure, Matthew´s spinal cord was compressed and due to the negligence of the hospital he is now permanently paralysed. Matthew spent two years in hospital until his parents won a prolonged battle to care for him at their home in Gorey, County Wexford; however Matthew requires undivided attention as he cannot move his arms or legs, and relies on a ventilator to help him breathe.

After seeking legal advice, Cathy McGrath made a meningitis misdiagnosis claim against Wexford General Hospital on her son´s behalf. It was alleged in the claim that Haemophilus Influenza Type B is acknowledged to be an indicator of meningitis, and – had the correct diagnosis been made when Matthew was first admitted – he could have been successfully treated with antibiotics and fluids.

Following an investigation into the meningitis misdiagnosis claim, the Health Service Executive conceded liability for Matthew´s devastating injuries and issued an apology to Matthew´s parents. An interim €3.7 million settlement of Cathy´s meningitis misdiagnosis claim was negotiated, but the settlement first had to be approved by a judge as the claim was made on behalf of a legal minor.

At the Dublin High Court, Mr Justice Matthew Cross heard about the sequence of events that resulted in Matthew undergoing a lumbar puncture procedure and the devastating consequences. At the end of the hearing, Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of the meningitis misdiagnosis claim, and he adjourned the hearing for five years in order that Matthew´s future needs can be assessed with a view to a final settlement.