Saturday 24 February 2018

Wife of brain-damaged man in battle over €4.5m payout

Tim Healy

A WOMAN who claims she felt "blackmailed" and intimidated into accepting lower damages for her severely brain damaged husband has asked the High Court to set aside the €4.2m settlement.

Anna Marie O'Brien described her husband as the "most vulnerable in society" who had waited more than 15 years for resolution of his case.

As a result of his injuries, Martin O'Brien is "like a child in a man's body" and needs 24-hour care, the court heard.

She told the court that damages of €4.5m were originally approved by the High Court in May last year.

This was later set aside and after a hearing in July last year, the court ruled on a settlement of €4.2m. Mrs O'Brien said she had felt "blackmailed" by the defendants and had little or no choice in the matter.

Mrs O'Brien said she had been given 24 hours to decide whether to accept the lower amount and had felt intimidated into doing so.

The case is about the difference between the €4.5m conditional offer approved by the High Court in May 2011 pending clarification of issues concerning the Health Service Executive's €1.2m costs to date of treating Mr O'Brien and the later €4.2m settlement, plus legal costs, ruled in July 2011, the court heard.

It was alleged Mr O'Brien suffered viral encephalitis as a result of a herpes simplex viral infection which should have been treated sooner.

Mr O'Brien (45), his wife and their children Rachael and Benjamin of Laurel Park, Newcastle, Galway, had sued the Health Service Executive and a number of doctors over his treatment between late January 1996 and late March 1996.

The settlement was made without admission of liability against a doctor attached to Merlin Park Regional Hospital, Galway, in 1996 when he allegedly treated Mr O'Brien there some weeks after he developed an itchy rash and sores. The proceedings against all other defendants were struck out. Mrs O'Brien had in July 2011 reluctantly agreed to accept the offer of €4.2m, plus costs, having been advised by her lawyers to do so, the defence contend.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said a hearing date for Mrs O'Brien's application would have to be fixed.

Mrs O'Brien, who was representing herself, told the judge she did not wish to instruct lawyers for the matter. Mr Justice Kearns adjourned the case and urged Mrs O'Brien to take legal advice.

Irish Independent

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