Parents in shock after being landed with costs
THE parents of a severely brain-damaged child fear they may lose their specially-adapted family home over a €500,000 legal bill.
Linda and Anthony Duffy, from Cabinteely, Dublin, took the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to court over alleged negligence in the treatment of their first-born son following his birth.
Mother-of-three Mrs Duffy wiped away tears as High Court Judge Sean Ryan said he had no choice but to award half the costs of the long-running case over the treatment of 10-year-old Mark, who suffers from cerebral palsy, against the family. The hospital had sought all costs after the judge ruled in their favour.
The judge granted the hospital half its legal costs -- it is expected this will amount to €500,000.
The court heard their only asset is their specially-adapted family home at Glen Drive.
After the decision, Mrs Duffy battled her emotions, saying they were "devastated" at the costs ruling which would add to the enormous pressure they were under.
The family had no choice but to bring the case in order to see what went wrong resulting in their son's serious injuries, Mr Duffy said.
He said to have a €500,000 bill was "soul destroying" and a terrible pressure to have for the next "60-years".
Mrs Duffy said they could not lose their family home -- which has taken them five-years to specially adapt with hoists and lifts for Mark.
"I can't say it in words what is going through our heads at the moment," Mr Duffy said. "After all the stuff we have to deal with as well, fighting for respite. It is too much to deal with, without putting that pressure on top of us."
Their solicitor has waived his fees and the family's legal team expected the other side to follow suit. As for a Supreme Court appeal, the family are undecided but worried it may take several years and may potentially send legal fees spiralling further.
"Never, never did I think we would be whacked with a half a million euro bill," Mrs Duffy added.
The NMH refused to say whether or not it will be pursuing the €500,000 in legal costs. Calls to a hospital spokesman went unreturned.
Mark is profoundly disabled and wheelchair bound. He requires 24-hour care after suffering severe brain injuries and loss of an eye after contracting meningitis following premature birth.
In August, Mr Justice Ryan dismissed claims of negligence by the hospital. The judge rejected arguments by experts for the parents that the hospital should have suspected Mark had meningitis.