Case Studies: Healthcare

Child with Cerebral Palsy recovers £8 million for birth injury

Patrick Mullarkey of O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors acted on behalf of a 9 year old County Antrim girl who suffered brain damage at the time of her birth.  In January 2018 she secured damages of in excess of £8 million, one of the highest value medical negligence cases ever settled in Northern Ireland.

The child’s parents proceeded in an action alleging clinical negligence in the care of the mother and the child at the time of the child’s birth at the Mater Hospital in Belfast. The parents instructed Paddy to represent their daughter in the case taken against the Hospital.  The parents alleged that the child’s birth had been delayed due to errors in management of the delivery, which resulted in the child sustaining a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen and a lack of blood flow to the child’s brain. The damages caused to the baby’s brain at the time of her birth ultimately manifested as Cerebral Palsy, a non-progressive neurodevelopmental condition affecting her motor function, mobility and learning ability.

Liability for the errors leading to the injury was accepted well in advance of the final resolution of the case.  Final resolution of the case however was not possible until the child’s injuries had settled to an extent which would make forecasting the nature of her future difficulties reasonably straightforward.  We did, however, use the period between the admission of liability and the trial of the action to secure interim damages on behalf of the child in order to attend to such matters as purchasing an appropriate home for the child and her family, and adapting that home to her particular needs. Prior to settlement of the action we carried out a detailed review of the injuries sustained and the needs/loss arising as a consequence including; care, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, equipment and aids, accommodation, travel, education, earnings  and speech and language.

A final package, known as a Periodical Payments Order, has been drawn up between the parties and approved by the Court to deal with all care, therapy and equipment needs for the rest of the child’s life.  In the circumstances her needs will be provided for by the Trust for the entirety of her lifetime and that is a source of comfort both to the injured party and to her parents.  Settlement also includes a lump sum payment in the region of £1.6 million representing payments in relation to the injury itself, past losses and certain future losses including loss of earnings.

Whilst receipt of substantial damages is often perceived, by persons unconnected with the case, as something akin to a “lottery win”, it was noted, in the press, at the time of the resolution of the claim, that the parents would exchange every penny of the settlement for an undamaged and uninjured child.  The compensation secured does nothing more than put the Plaintiff into the position that she would have been in but for the errors made by the Trust at the time of her birth.

The child’s mother has commented “I would recommend Mr Mullarkey to anyone who finds themselves in our situation. He was always honest regarding the case and would never make any promises he could not fulfil. He fought our daughter’s corner every step of the way. His knowledge and expertise in this area has been proven by the outcome of the case…A case such as this has a lot of emotions involved due to its nature. As well as being our solicitor, Mr Mullarkey had also to deal with our emotions in this long and difficult process. He was more than understanding and was always there to talk to when needed. He advised every step of the way regarding any decisions to be made. I cannot sing his praises enough and will remain our daughter’s solicitor now that the case has ended”

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