independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

HSE pays €11m to girl (9) who was left brain damaged at birth

Brid Courtney in her wheelchair

A YOUNG girl left brain damaged at birth is to be paid a total of €11m in one of the largest High Court settlements ever.

The settlement for Brid Courtney (9) was agreed without admission of liability by the HSE and was approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

Two years ago, the court approved an interim payment of €2m and the case was adjourned with the intention that additional payments to meet her future care needs would be assessed later when a new system of periodic payments was introduced.

However, that system has still not been brought in by the Government despite serious concerns expressed by a High Court judge last year about the delay.

Through her mother Deirdre Courtney, of Killeacle, Ardfert, Co Kerry, the child brought the action against the HSE arising from the circumstances of her birth at Tralee General Hospital in February 2003.

The case resumed last week before Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who heard expert evidence aimed at assessing the costs of the child's future care needs.

Ms Justice Irvine was told by counsel Liam Reidy that an additional €9m payment had been agreed to fully settle the case.

Mrs Courtney told the judge she was agreeable to that and Ms Justice Irvine said she had no hesitation in approving the offer, given the failure to enact the periodic payments laws.

The Courtney family said that on legal advice they would not be making any comment.

Lifetime

The periodic payments system is intended to provide for life-long payments to persons suffering from serious injuries necessitating lifetime care.

When previously outlining the case, Mr Reidy said Mrs Courtney was admitted to Tralee General Hospital on February 24, 2003.

During labour, hospital staff failed to consider the dangers associated with a sudden and dramatic change in the foetal heart rate pattern and failed to deliver the foetus as speedily as possible, Mr Reidy said. This caused the child to suffer perinatal asphyxia causing brain damage, he added.

Mr Reidy said Brid is wheelchair dependent. She is unable to communicate through speech and has to rely on the use of her eyes and facial expressions.

While profoundly physically disabled, her intellect was intact and she had a IQ of 106, he said. Brid was a "joyful, happy" child who "communicates in a humourous way with everybody around her".

The court heard the child's parents were living in her grandparents' house which was not conducive to her needs, had built a new home with monies from the interim payment.

Last year High Court judge Mr Justice John Quirke expressed serious concerns about the State's delay in introducing promised legislation allowing for a life-long system of periodic payments for people with catastrophic injuries.

He called for the laws be speedily introduced or the courts may have to revert to sanctioning lump sum payments involving greater expense.

Irish Independent

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