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Interim Settlement of Claim for the Failure to Diagnose Sepsis Approved in Court

A €550,000 interim settlement of a claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis has been approved in the High Court in favour of a man permanently in a coma.

On 3rd October 2011, Robert Bolton (71) underwent surgery on his oesophagus at the St James Hospital in Dublin. The surgery was considered to be successful but, the following morning, James suffered a heart attack due to respiratory failure brought on by sepsis.

Due to a combination of the heart attack and respiratory failure, Robert went into a coma and has been in a minimally conscious state ever since. Unable to speak or communicate – and oblivious to the presence of his family – Robert requires around-the-clock specialised care.

On her husband´s behalf, Robert´s wife – Angela – made a claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis against St James Hospital, alleging that the hospital had not met the generally accepted criteria for systemic inflammatory response and sepsis. It was also alleged that the hospital had failed to identify the symptoms of sepsis-related organ failure.

The hospital contested the claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis, but admitted that there had been failings in the standard of care provided to Robert. A €550,000 interim settlement of compensation was agreed to provide Robert´s care for the next two years. However, as the claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis had been made on behalf of a plaintiff unable to represent themselves, the settlement had to be approved by a judge.

Consequently, at the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the circumstances of Robert´s heart attack, its probable cause, and the consequences of his condition to his wife and family. Judge Cross approved the interim settlement after Angela told him that the family was happy that Robert´s care would be provided for. The judge commented that the settlement of the claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis had been well thought out and was obviously the result of hard bargaining.