A High Court judge has granted permission for a widower to proceed with a hospital wrongful death claim for compensation after the HSE used the Statute of Limitations to contest its legality.
Dolores Hewitt from Navan in County Meath had been on a monitoring regime at Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan after making a full recovery from breast cancer in 2001. In February 2007, an ultrasound examination discovered two cancerous lesions on her liver, but no immediate action was taken.
Some five months later, a chance meeting between Dolores and her surgeon led to further scans being performed. The second series of scans showed further lesions on her liver, and Dolores started a new course of treatment but unfortunately died in June 2010.
In January 2012, Dolores´ widowed husband – Joseph Hewitt – made a compensation claim against the Health Service Executive (HSE) for Our Lady´s Hospital failing to act on the scan results in February 2007. In his action he claimed that that Our Lady´s Hospital had been negligent by not responding to the early indicators of cancer. He also claimed compensation for Dolores´ “wrongful death”.
The HSE contested the hospital wrongful death claim on the grounds that the alleged failure to act occurred 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 High Court.
In the High Court, Judge Baker said that the HSE was correct that Joseph was outside the Statute of Limitations to claim compensation for the hospital´s failure to act in respect of the alleged negligence that occurred in 2007, but was within the allowed time period to make a hospital wrongful death claim for compensation, as the claim had been initiated nineteen months after Dolores had died.