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Schoolgirl with cerebral palsy awarded €3m in hospital settlement


The Four Courts in Dublin

The Four Courts in Dublin

The Four Courts in Dublin

A 16-year-old Co Wicklow girl, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy, has been awarded €3m damages in a High Court approved settlement with the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin.

Emma O’Donnell sued the hospital through her father James Forde, of Sea Road, Arklow, whose efforts to care for his daughter since 2007 were described in court as “heroic.”

Richard Kean, SC, counsel for Emma, told High Court President, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, that Mr Forde had given up his job as an oil tanker driver to care for his daughter and had only recently returned to work.

Mr Kean, who appeared with barrister Barney Quirke, said that six hours after her suction birth on June 9, 1998, Emma had developed seizures and turned blue. She developed all the symptoms of cerebral palsy.

He told the court it was a tragic case and Emma now required assistance with everything and had a significant intellectual disability and very significant behavioural problems.

It had been alleged that the hospital had failed in its care for Emma before and following her birth but Mr Kean acknowledged there was a major liability in establishing a causative link between any claimed negligence and her cerebral palsy.

He said there could be serious difficulty with proving 100 per cent blame if the proceedings went to a full hearing and delays in the case coming to fruition had been mainly due to problems with proofs of liability.

Mr Kean said he and Mr Quirke had estimated the case at its very best to be worth €9million, while the hospital authorities had placed its value on full proof of negligence at €6million. 

The hospital had provided a letter of consent to a settlement of €3million with full legal costs and he was recommending approval of it to the court.

In approving the settlement Judge Kearns said he was mindful of the difficulties involved in the case.  He congratulated Mr Forde for his care of Emma over the last 16 years and his former partner Ms Roisin O’Donnell  who had helped in her care until 2007.

Mr Kean said Mr Forde had been given custody of Emma and the couple’s second child, a completely healthy son.  He said Roisin suffered from a significant bi polar condition and had been institutionalised for a number of years.

Online Editors