Sunday 18 February 2018

Savita civil case settlement believed to include payment of substantial sum

Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital in 2012. Photo: Reuters
Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital in 2012. Photo: Reuters
Savita with her husband Praveen in happier days
Savita Halappanavar
Praveen and Savita Halappanavar on their wedding day (Reuters)

The action for damages by the husband of the late Savita Halappanavar against the Health Services Executive over her "tragic, untimely and premature" death in 2012 has settled at the High Court on terms believed to include payment of a substantial sum.

Among the claims by Praveen Halappanavar (38), it was alleged the HSE "placed far too great an emphasis on the existence of the foetal heart beat" while his wife was under its care and ignored her own rights, particularly her right to life and right to appropriate medical treament while she was under its care.

As a result of her death, her husband had lost her society, affection and love and he and her and family have suffered great mental distress, upset and hurt, the claim stated.  Ms Halappanavar had "enjoyed a good life" and was in good health and her life was shortned by the HSE's "negligence and misconduct".

Damages, including aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages, were sought for negligence, breach of constiutional rights, breach of duty and failure to vindicate Ms Halappanavar's constutitional rights, including her right to life.

The HSE had admitted the death of the 31-year-old woman was wrongful, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told on Thursday.

In a four paragrpah defence, the HSE said it did not require proof Ms Halappanvaar's death was a wrongful death within the meaning of the Civil Liability Act and/or occurred as a result of breach of duty on the part of the defence. 

Liability was "not in issue", the defence also stated.

Ms Halappanavar was pregnant with her first child when she presented at University College Hopspital, Galway, on October 21st 2012 hospital with pains. She died a week later after miscarrying and contracting E coli, leading to septic shock.

An inquest into her death was told she repeatedly asked for a termination but, because a foetal heartbeat was detected and her life did not appear to be in danger at that time, an abortion could not be carried out under the law.

In the action brought by her husband Praveen on his own behalf and on behalf of her dependants, it was claimed the HSE had an obligation to treat his wife in line with the obligation to protect and vindicate her right to life in accordance with the Constutition.

By failing to take the necessary steps to protect her life, the HSE placed too great an emphasis on the position of the foetus in her body which had "no possibility of survival", it was alleged.

When the case by Mr Halppanavar, a manufacturing engineering, with an address at Roscam, Galway, was called on Thursday, Eugene Gleeson SC, for Mr Halappanavar, said it had settled.

The settlement is confidential but is believed to include a substantial payment to Mr Halappanavar.

Declan Buckley SC, for the HSE, said all aspects of the case had been agreed and the entire proceedings could be struck out with no orders.

The judge made the strike out orders and, on the application of Mr Gleeson, also made orders for the equal distribution of an additional sum of €35,000, payable under the terms of the Civil Liability Act, between Mr Halappanavar and his late wife's dependants - her parents, Akkamahadevi and Andanappa Yalagi, and brothers Sanjeev Yalagi and Santosh Yalagi.

In a brief outline of the case, Mr Gleeson said Savita Halappanavar was born in southern India in 1981 and was practising as a dentist when she married her husband in 2007. She followed him to Ireland where they planned to start a family and for her to work as a dentist.

Mr Gleeson said the defendants had admitted her death was wrongful and all the claims had settled subject to the court making orders for distribution of the €35,000 sum.

In his claim, Mr Halappanavar alleged, due to the negligence of the defendants, their servants or agents, in relation to the treatment and diagnosis, or lack of both, and lack of medical care, she was wrongfully caused or permitted to lose her life at the Galway hospital.

Other claims included the defendants failed to carry out routine observations every four hours as required by the hospital's own policy and failed to keep Ms Halappanavar under constant review. The defendants failed to notice she was upset, crying, shivering, feeling cold, aches, pains, back pain, lower abdominal tenderness, nausea, vaginal bleeding and failed to act appropriately on these "vital signs", it was claimed.

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