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Lack of Periodic Payments Frustrates Judge in Obstetrician Negligence Claim

A High Court judge displayed her frustration at the failure of Ministers to introduce periodic payments when approving a second interim payment of compensation in part-settlement of an obstetrician negligence claim.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine has many times called for legislation to be passed so that periodic payments can be awarded to claimants with catastrophic life-long injuries and, at the High Court in Dublin, the judge once again displayed her frustration at not being able to approve a structured settlement in the case of Luke Miggin – an eight-year-old boy who suffered severe brain damage prior to his birth due to the negligence of his mother´s consultant obstetrician.

Luke was born at the Mullingar General Hospital on 26th February 2006 after consultant obstetrician Michael Gannon had failed to act on CTG traces taken throughout the day which showed a deceleration of the foetal heart rate. Luke´s delivery was delayed several hours longer than would reasonably be expected, and when he was born needed resuscitation and was transferred to the special care baby unit.

Because he was starved of oxygen in the womb, Luke now suffers from cerebral palsy, is unable to walk and requires around-the-clock attention.

Through his mother – Emily Miggin of Athboy, County Meath – Luke made an obstetrician negligence claim for compensation, and in 2010 Dr Gannon and the Health Service Executive admitted liability. In January 2011, an interim settlement of compensation amounting to €1.35 million was approved by Mr Justice John Quirke, and Luke´s obstetrician negligence claim adjourned for three years to allow time for a periodic payment system to be introduced.

However, with no such structured compensation system yet in place, Emily Miggin returned to the High Court to have a second interim payment of compensation approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. Judge Irvine commended Emily for her patience and commented that ongoing litigation prevents families such as the Miggins from getting on with their lives. She apologised for her frustration at not being able to approve a structure settlement and criticised successive Ministers of Justice for failing to deliver on their promises of a periodic payment system.

Judge Irvine then approved the €580,000 interim settlement of compensation and adjourned Luke´s obstetrician negligence claim for a further three years, when the family will have to have Luke´s future needs re-assessed and return to court once again.