The settlement of a child´s cerebral palsy claim for compensation has been approved at the High Court despite questions over liability.
Emma O´Donnell was born at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin on 9th June 1998. Six hours after her suction birth, Emma turned blue and started to have seizures. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and now requires full-time care due an intellectual disability and behavioural problems,
Emma (now 16 years of age) has been cared for by her father – James Forde from Aklow in County Wicklow – since her mother was diagnosed with a significant bi-polar condition and institutionalised in 2007. James gave up his job to look after his daughter and has been her full-time carer ever since.
James made a child´s cerebral palsy claim for compensation on his daughter´s behalf, but encountered difficulties finding a link between the treatment Emma had received at the National Maternity Hospital before and after her birth, and the cerebral palsy.
Solicitors working on Emma´s behalf attempted to recover €9 million in compensation from the hospital and Health Service Executive (HSE); but a value of €6 million was placed on the claim by the HSE – and only then if full proof of negligence could be established.
Eventually a compromise was agreed without admission of liability in which the child´s cerebral palsy claim for compensation would be settled for €3 million subject to the approval of a judge.
Consequently, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns at the High Court in Dublin heard the tragic case of Emma´s birth and her life to date. He was told that the compensation claim had been brought so late in Emma´s life due to the difficulty of establishing liability and that the hospital had provided a letter of consent to settle the claim for €3 million.
Having reviewed the case, Judge Kearns agreed with Emma´s solicitors that it would be difficult to establish full proof of negligence if the case went to a full hearing, and he approved the settlement of the child´s cerebral palsy claim for compensation – describing the care that had been provided by James for Emma as “heroic”.