Tuesday 16 January 2018

Court approves €120k settlement for disabled man who allegedly suffered bruises, blisters and burns at Brothers of Charity workshop

Seamus Vaughan pictured leaving the Four Courts with his parents, Patrick and Freida, after a High Court action (Picture: Collins Courts)
Seamus Vaughan pictured leaving the Four Courts with his parents, Patrick and Freida, after a High Court action (Picture: Collins Courts)

Tim Healy

The High Court has approved a settlement of €120,000 to a disabled man who allegedly suffered injuries, including unexplained bruises, blisters and burns while he attended at a workshop run by the Brothers of Charity.

Seamus Vaughan (38) sued over an alleged gross lack of care he received while he attended the workshop at Lacey's Cross, Newcastle West, Co Limerick.

He has been profoundly disabled since he was a teenager, the court heard

His personal injuries action, taken on his behalf by  his father, Patrick Vaughan, was against the Brothers of Charity Services Limerick Ltd and the HSE.

The claims were denied.

The settlement was without admission of liability except in relation to one incident in 2011.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr said after careful consideration he had "no hesitation" in approving the €120,000 settlement  after his mother, Freda Vaughan, told the court the family was not happy with the amount offered.

She said there was something "odd" about her son's injuries.

She told the court the family had been very upset about what happened to Seamus and felt they had been badly treated.

Seamus, she said, would become violent on his return home from the workshop. It was so bad that their daughter had to leave the home for a period, she said.

Seamus, she said, regressed while he attended at the workshop but was so happy and had improved since he moved to a new facility in 2011 run by Enable Ireland.

In  his ruling, the judge said there was "a significant difficulties" in proving liability in the case, including that Seamus could not give evidence and that there were no witness to the alleged incidents complained of.

There was no guarantee that at a full trial Seamus's claim would be successful or that the award would be any more had been offered, the judge said.

Outlining the case, Frank Callanan SC, for Mr Vaughan, of Morenane, Askeaton, Co Limerick, said the admission of liability in relation to a single matter related to an incident when he fell at the workshop in February 2011, and lost two teeth.

However all other claims were denied.

Counsel said Mr Vaughan suffers from beta ketothiolase deficiency a condition where his body is unable to break down proteins.

This has resulted in him suffering physical and cognitive injuries. and he now requires the use of a wheelchair, is non-verbal and he requires a high degree of care for several years.  He is on a special diet.

Counsel said it was their case that the defendants were in breach of their duty of care. He was referred to the workshop by the HSE

The claim related to incidents including one in 2006 and 2007 when his family noticed bruising, burns and blisters on his right hand.

Doctors treating him, counsel said, were unable to explain his injuries.

He is unable to open his hand, yet the blisters and burns were on areas including his palms and the base of his thumb.

Medics suggested the injuries might have been caused by him being exposed to a hot object.

He was also regularly returning home from the workshop soiled, counsel said.

He fell at the workshop on several occasions. He had collapsed in 2009 and a doctor told them this was due to a lack of food and drink.

On another occasion, he had come home with a swollen cheekbone. 

Counsel said the family were not satisfied with an investigation carried out by the defendants, which rejected claims of negligence, following their complaints about his care.

Things did improve in 2009 when a particular person employed at the workshop started working with Mr Vaughan.

Eventually, counsel said, he was moved to a facility run by Enable Ireland, where his family say he has come on leaps and bounds.  

The defendants had denied there was a gross lack of care or victimisation and argued he was afforded an appropriate level of supervision at the workshop.

Following the settlement, the family's solicitor, Ronan Hynes, said that family were happy that the court case had ended and felt vindicated with the outcome.

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