Woman (25) with cerebral palsy settles High Court case for €6.5m

A 25-year-old woman with cerebral palsy has settled for €6.5 million her High Court action against a maternity hospital over the circumstances of her birth.
Woman (25) with cerebral palsy settles High Court case for €6.5m

High Court reporters

A 25-year-old woman with cerebral palsy has settled for €6.5 million her High Court action against a maternity hospital over the circumstances of her birth.

Gemma Barrett sued alleging her cerebral palsy, epilepsy and sensorineural hearing impairment were caused by negligence and breach of duty on the part of the Governor and Guardians of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital.

She alleged the defendant decided too late on March 23rd, 1997, that her mother, Paula Barrett, required a Caesarian section. It was alleged this delay deprived the foetus of oxygen.

The settlement was without an admission of liability. The hospital did not deny a delay of approximately seven minutes in summoning medical assistance when abnormality became apparent on scan of the foetus’s heartbeat prior to the birth.

Meningitis

All other claims were denied, and the hospital claimed Ms Barrett’s clinical picture was early onset meningitis. It alleged neonatal meningitis was responsible for 80 per cent of her injuries.

Ms Barrett, of Belclare Green, Ballymun, Dublin, was represented in her action by barrister Jim O’Callaghan, instructed by Thomas Loomes & Company.

Mr O’Callaghan told the High Court on Wednesday he believes there is a “significant risk” that the hospital could be found liable for only 20 to 30 per cent of Ms Barrett’s injuries in light of a new report filed by the plaintiff’s medical expert.

The expert originally felt Ms Barrett’s conditions were caused by a lack of oxygen prior to birth and not meningitis.

However, after the defendant pointed specifically to the issue of meningitis, the expert was asked for an updated report.

In his second submission, the paediatrician said he believed there was significant evidence showing Ms Barrett did have meningitis as a baby and that a deterioration after her birth was not a typical trajectory that follows pre-birth oxygen deprivation.

The court heard Ms Barrett was in court with her mother, who is her “constant carer”.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said he was delighted the case had been resolved to the mother’s satisfaction.

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