The High Court of Ireland has approved the first settlement for a child suffering from severe birth injuries under a new piece of legislation that allows for periodic, life-long payments of compensation to those affected by catastrophic injuries, RTE reports. Parents Michelle Farrell and Eddie O’Connor sued the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, accusing the medical facility of failing to properly diagnose and manage a severe pregnancy complication, preeclampsia.

New Irish Birth Injury Law Allows For Periodic, Lifelong Payments

The High Court’s decision came in the case of a young girl, now 13 years old, who suffered catastrophic brain damage prior to birth when her mother experienced a seizure after being prematurely discharged from the Rotunda Hospital. The child now requires round-the-clock nursing care, and is entirely dependent on others to satisfy all of her needs.

Baby Holding Fathers Hand

Young Girl Described As “Warrior”

High Court President Justice Peter Kelly said in an emotional statement that he had already seen too many families burdened by the extraordinary care requirements of a severely-disabled loved one. Judge Kelly described the plaintiff as “something of a warrior” in his comments. The recently-approved settlement provides for annual payments of 610,000 euros to the girl’s family, ensuring that she will be “properly nursed and properly cared for,” Justice Kelly added.

Most birth injury claims in Ireland come as lawsuits against the government, because of the country’s nationalized health care system. The same goes for cases in England, unlike the United States, where most birth injury lawsuits take the form of private civil lawsuits against private hospitals and medical facilities.

As a condition of the settlement, the child will now be considered a ward of the court; all decisions related to her future needs will be overseen by the court. Justice Kelly says he is satisfied that the periodic payment scheme is appropriate in this case, since the child has already survived a number of health scares. The settlement comes after three previous payments totaling 2.9 million euros. The Rotunda Hospital has not admitted liability in the case.

New Legislation Allows For Seamless Compensation

In his statements, Justice Kelly said the benefit of Ireland’s new legislation, which allows for periodic payments over the course of a plaintiff’s lifetime, is that it does away with the need to “guesstimate” over a severely-disabled plaintiff’s life expectancy. In the past, he had seen several cases in which lump sum awards were granted, but ran out after the plaintiff’s outlived the life expectancy upon which the settlement awards were calculated.

The child involved in the present case has already survived a number of serious illnesses, making Kelly hopeful that she will outlive her current life expectancy, set around 20 years old. The Justice said her family’s choice to opt for periodic payments was “sensible,” telling the parents, “you must be relieved that this will be your last trip to the Four Courts.”

Lawsuit Accused Hospital Of Mismanaging Preeclampsia

In her lawsuit, the girl’s mother accused the Rotunda Hospital of improperly managing her pregnancy, while failing to properly treat and diagnose her preeclampsia. Attorneys told the High Court that she had been seen by doctors at Rotunda four times, and complained at each interval of high blood pressure, breathing problems and chest pain.

On November 2, 2005, her primary care physician expressed concern that she may have preeclampsia, a severe form of high blood pressure diagnosed in some pregnant women. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to seizures and severe harm to a fetus.

Why Was Mother Discharged From Hospital?

The mother was soon referred to the Rotunda Hospital for further care. She was admitted via the hospital’s emergency department and diagnosed with preeclamptic toxaemia. She was then discharged four days later, with a follow-up appointment scheduled for November 8, despite her own protests that her condition was deteriorating.

On November 7, the hospital received a call from her family, who expressed further concerns about her condition. Later the same day, they called for an ambulance. In the ambulance, she suffered an eclamptic seizure, at which point the ambulance was diverted to the nearest hospital, St. James’, where she underwent a cesarean section. Her baby was delivered successfully, but had suffered severe brain damage due to the seizure, having been starved of oxygen for a time. The child now requires round-the-clock nursing care.

In court documents, the mother claimed that Rotunda Hospital’s professionals had failed to adequately investigate her preeclamptic condition before she was discharged on November 6.