Family Receives 564,000 Euro Compensation for Hospital Death

The family of Miriam Jackson of Navan, County Meath, has received a €564,000 High Court settlement following her death in September 2004 in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, two weeks after being admitted with a small bowel obstruction. The case was taken by her husband, Derek Jackson, who also sued on behalf of his three children for damages for the loss of Mrs Jackson and the resulting mental distress. The lawsuit outlined over twenty claims of medical negligence and hospital negligence – mostly an unfortunate list of ignored symptoms. It was alleged that that urine analysis results were ignored – results that found an E coli infection and therefore septicemia was allowed develop and go untreated for a significant period of time. It was alleged that Mrs Jackson complained of abdominal pain and was feverish. It was claimed that her rising temperature was ignored by the surgical team. It was alleged that a medical consultation requested by the surgical registrar did not take place, despite multiple symptoms, including a temperature of 38.2 degrees, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and light-headednes.
The hospital admitted liability in the case, so the High Court case under Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was only to determine the amount of compensation.


Twelve Irish Organisations Sign European Road Safety Charter

Twelve Irish organisations have signed  the European Road Safety Charter in Dublin today. The European Union statistics for 2008 show that there were 1.3 million road traffic accidents, 39,000 road deaths, and 1.6 million injuries. It is estimated that road traffic injuries cost about 2% of European GDP.
The charter focuses on reducing the number of road traffic accidents in Europe with measures that improve vehicle safety, road infrastructure safety, and driver behaviour.
The twelve new Irish signatories of the European Road Safety Charter are Cavan Area Rural Transport, Community Transport Association of Ireland, Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown County Council, ECO Unesco, Headway Ireland, Irish Medical Organisation, Irish Road Haulage Association, Metroplex Ireland, Shell, The Irish Insurance Federation, Vantastic, and World Rally Team Ireland.


Fireman Wins Injury Compensation Case Following Ladder Fall

Vincent McGuinness, a fireman from Dundalk, County Louth, has settled a High Court compensation claim for a five-meter fall from a ladder while fighting a fire at a derelict house at Culhane Street, Dundalk, in February 2004.  Mr McGuinness took the action against his employer Dundalk Town Council and the owner of the building that caught fire.
The case against the building owner was on the basis that he failed to secure the premises adequately and failed to ensure that a fire would not occur there. 

Mr McGuinness was injured while following a direct orders to climb a ladder that was placed by a superior officer against iron guttering, which later collapsed and moved the ladder.  Mr McGuinness landed on his back while his breathing apparatus canister was still attached to his back, causing a vertebra injury. Mr McGuinness spent spent three days in hospital and wore a neck brace for three months.  Mr McGuinness was unable to work for five months.
It was claimed that a hydraulic ladder that was available on the fire truck at the incident should have been used. The council argued that it had taken all appropriate measures, there was contributory negligence, and that the fire was started by a third party and therefore the council had no liability in law.
The case was settled before the jury made an award, presumably because the defendants were afraid of what a jury would award to a fireman injured while bravely fighting a fire.


State Claims Agency Data Shows 15,000 Slips, Trips, and Falls in Irish Hospitals Annually

A report today for the Irish Patients Association by the State Claims Agency shows that there are an average of 15,000 slips, trips, and falls in Irish hospitals, using data from the past 6 years.  The State Claims Agency data reveals that about 40% of hospital incidents are falls.

About  300 patients fall in Irish hospital showers each year, some of whom suffer fractured bones, although only about 1 percent of  patients sustained multiple injuries. Approximately one-quarter of patients who fell in showers suffered either bruising, lacerations or fractures.

Most accidents occur when patients are not under supervision and in at least one Irish hospital poor drainage leaves the shower facilities permanently flooded and therefore slippery. This certainly exposes Irish hospitals to medical negligence claims.


State Claims Agency Backs Annualised Compensation Payments For Long Term Injuries

The State Claims Agency (SCA) director Ciaran Breen has backed the group investigating the feasibility of new legislation to allow for annual payments to victims of catastrophic injuries to replace the current system of large lump sum payments.

Speaking in an interview with Michael Brennan of The Irish Independent, Breen stated “We here in the SCA have been advocating that compensation in catastrophic injury cases should be paid by periodic payment order rather than the traditional lump sum because we feel that the transfer of the investment and mortality risk to the State is the proper thing to do.”

A working group chaired by Mr Justice Quirke has been set up to examine of compensation payments for catastrophic injuries can or should be awarded by way of periodical payment orders. The  group includes High Court judges, solicitors, barristers, and representatives from various organizations such as the State Claims Agency, Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland, Department of Justice, Insurance Federation of Ireland, and the Courts Service.


Family Receives 2.4 Million for Surgery Death

The  family of the late Kay Cregan, a mother of two from County Limerick, has agreed to a legal settlement of $3.1m (€2.4m) following her death during cosmetic surgery.  The incident was particularly shocking because Mrs. Cregan had not informed her husband, Liam Cregan, that she was undergoing a facelift during her visit to New York in March 2005.

A jury found anaesthesiologist Dr. Madhavrao Subbarao and nurse Susan Alonzo Francisco guilty of not implementing best medical practice in her post-operative care.  However, the jury did not find that the anaesthesiologist and nurse were responsible for Mrs. Cregan’s death.

The plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Evans Sachs, had been involved in 30 malpractice cases in 10 years prior to surrendering his licence to practice to the medical regulatory authorities in New York State.  The settlement consisted of a $2.1m (€1.6m) settlement with Dr. Sachs’s insurance company and $1m (€769,000) with lawyers representing nurse Susan Alonzo Francisco.


Boy Receives 1.28 Million Euro Following Farm Accident

Mr Justice John Quirke of the High Court in Dublin has approved a settlement award of €1.28m to a County Waterford teenager TJ Kearns, who lost a leg in a farming accident. The farm accident occurred on April 20, 2001, when TJ Kearns’  leg got entangled in a power seed sowing machine while working on a farm when he was nine years of age. TJ Kearns was in a tractor with a power harrow attached that was driven by an adult.
The defendants in the case were John Joe Flynn, Eugene Flynn and Gerard Flynn of  Dunmore East, County Waterford.  As is common in most workplace injury claims, liability in the action had been admitted. As a minor, TJ Kearns of Viewmount, Waterford sued through his father Tom Kearns.  The settlement offer had to be approved in the High Court because TJ Kearns is a minor.
While approving the settlement, Mr Justice Quirke stated that  “no money could compensate TJ fully for what he had suffered” .  TJ Kearns received treatment National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghire and now uses an artificial leg.


Medical Incidents in Irish Hospitals May Cause Thousands of Deaths Annually

Jim Reilly of Patient Focus has claimed today that international figures show that 4-16% of patients in hospitals are exposed to “potentially dangerous adverse events”.  Mr Reilly was speaking at a conference organised by the charity Action Against Medical Accidents. Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, claimed that more people are killed or permanently disabled in hospitals due to medical incidents than were injured in road traffic accidents.

State Claims Agency data for 2008 reveals that there were 83,661 “adverse incidents” recorded by Irish hospitals, where an medical incident could range from something as simply as slips, trips, and falls to more serious treatment errors such as medication errors.

The figures include both major and minor incidents ranging from slips, trips and falls to medication and treatment errors.  The figures also demonstrate how badly exposed the Irish health services are to medical negligence claims and hospital negligence claims.

Data from the State Claims Agency reveal that there were 8,250 ‘medication incidents’ (incorrect dosages or simply wrong medication given to patients), some 5,559 ‘treatment incidents’ (which includes mistakes like leaving surgical swabs in patients’ bodies after operations), and poor documentation (which lead to anything from a simple ‘near miss’ to a catastrophic incident).

The State Claims Agency runs a clinical indemnity scheme for Irish hospitals that paid out almost €50 million in medical negligence claims and hospital negligence claims last in 2009, with an average award of  €63,000.


MRSA Infection Crisis in Irish Hospitals

The MRSA Group, multidisciplinary advisory group including microbiologists, hospital pharmacists, and patient advocates with funding from Pfiizer, has published a report  “Meticillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureas (MRSA) in Ireland: Addressing the Issues” . Shockingly, the report finds that patients who acquire infections in Irish hospitals are 7.1 times more like than uninfected patients to die in hospitals.

The report estimates that patients who acquire an infection in hospital stayed in hospital 2.5 times longer than other patients and that the cost of healthcare associated infections (HCAI) totalled €233.75 million a year.  This cost estimate does not include the cost of hospital negligence claims.   The report states that approximately one third of HCAIs are preventable, therefore the potential savings from all HCAI is €77 million. Again, this illustrates the potential level of liability for medical negligence claims for infections that should never have happened if the hospitals were properly run.

European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System data ranks Ireland fourth in Europe for MRSA bloodstream infection (BSI) rates at 33.1%.  This infection rate is significantly higher than in many other EU countries.

There are some factors causing HCAI that are specific to individual patients such as age, surgical wounds, use of medical devices, illness severity, and length of stay in hospital. These factors are the same in all countries in Europe, so Ireland’s high rate of hospital infections is due to the way the hospitals are managed.  The factors under the control and responsibility of the hospitals include poor hand-hygiene, overuse of antimicrobials, contaminated equipment, delays in patient isolation, low staff-patient ratios (which strongly influences quality of care), and the availability of isolation facilities (for patients at risk).

There is a lot of discussion about the degradation of hygiene in Irish hospitals.  The cleaning staff are now heavily unionised and often blamed for a work-to-rule attitude.  The nursing staff are now considerably better educated than previous generations and appear more focussed on medical issues less inclined to help with cleaning duties.

In fact, it was well known that while hospitals were run by religious orders, the hospital matron regularly terrorised nursing staff with meticulous inspections.  The matrons famously used a handkerchief to search for any dirt or dust.  The unholy wrath of the matrons was Ireland’s most effective defence against hospital infections!


Working Group On Compensation Payment Methods for Major Injuries

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, has set up a working group to examine the options regarding compensation payment methods for for catastrophic injuries cases.   The current system in Ireland relies on single lump sum payments that are an attempt to ensure that the victim is adequately compensated for the long term impact of any injuries.  This mainly involves considering the situation if the victim had not been injured.

The main problem with this system is that the life expectancy of the victims needs to be estimated.  Another problem is that a lump sum needs to be invested and it is very difficult to predict the long term performance of such investments.  There is also a danger that some victims will not invest  at all and simply spend their compensation amounts quickly.

The objective of the working group is examine of compensation payments for catastrophic injuries can or should be awarded by way of periodical payment orders.

The working group is chaired by Mr Justice Quirke and includes High Court judges, solicitors, barristers, and representatives from various organizations such as the State Claims Agency, Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland, Department of Justice, Insurance Federation of Ireland, and the Courts Service.


Antidepressants Can Cause Injuries to Babies

A truely tragic story in the Sunday Independent today highlights the dangers posed to pregnant women by antidepressants. Lisa McGillin reached a settlement of €500,000 with two doctors involved in her care during pregnancy – although there was no admission of liabilty or guilt in the case.  McGillin was given medication for her bipolar condition, without any warning about the dangers of taking antidepressants while pregnant.  In fact, McGillin claimed that she was also advised that Epilim (a brand of sodium valproate) was safe during pregnancy provided  she also took folic acid in adequate amounts.


Boy Awarded 4.5 Million Euro for Severe Birth Injury

Mr Justice John Quirke of the High Court has approved a €4.5 million settlement for Evan Doyle, of Mountain Close, Cartron View, Sligo, for cerebral palsy that was the result of alleged negligence during his birth at Sligo General Hospital.

After complications, a medical decision was taken to perform a Caesarean section but the consultant unfortunately arrived too late and Evan was delivered by forceps and went on to develop cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia.

Because Even Dolyle is under age, the case were taken by the boy’s month Janice Doyle.

Although the Health Service Executive did agree to a compensation payment, it did not admit liability in the case.


Car Crash Victim Awarded 4.25 Million Euro Compensation

Claire Noone, now aged 25, has been awarded 4.35 million euro in the High Court for a car crash in November 2005 at Johnstown, Enfield, County Meath, in which her boyfriend John Larkin died.

Noone was ejected from the car during the impact so there was a question about wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision and therefore contributory negligence.

The result was severe lower back injuries that makes walking anything other than a short distance painful.

It was stated in court that the crash occured with another car went through a red traffic light and hit the car driven by Claire Noone with John Larkin in the front passenger seat.

The judge, Mr Justice John Quirke, was highly critical of the fact that injury compensation law in Ireland only allowed lump sum payments rather than annual payments, which he described as a “lottery situation”.


Legal Liability For Unopened GP Referral Letters

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland yesterday morning, Professor Tom O’Dowd  of Trinity College, Dublin has estimated that there are about 30,000 referral letters from GPs that have not been processed at Tallaght Hospital.  Professor O’Dowd is Professor of General Practice and head of the department of Public Health and Primary Care in Trinity College, Dublin.

GPs are considered the primary care providers in the Irish health system and a referral to secondary care is because a GP has detected either symptoms or clinical signs that suggest a serious illness such as cancer or hearth disease.

The problem is not only unopened referral letters but also to letters from family doctors that had not reached consultants.
Professor  O’Dowd  stated on national radio that the ignored referrals were a “major dereliction of duty” by the hospital that ‘exposed the hospital to long-term legal consequences”.

The hospital is disputing the accusation of that there are excessive numbers of unopened referral letters.  However, it has already been confirmed that 3,498 referral letters that had not been reviewed by a consultant in October 2009.

The legal consequences really depend on medical consequences of the delay obtaining secondary care. Many illnesses benefit from early diagnosis so it is inevitable that the ignored referral letters resulted in some dreadful suffering.

If you believe that a referral letter has been ignored, you need to gather the necessary medical evidence and contact a solicitor.


Child Awarded 9,500 Euro For Foot Injury

William Corrigan-Hayden, aged eight, of Bohernabreena Cottages, Tallaght, was awarded €9,500 damages in the Circuit Civil Court for hurting his foot at the age of six when a slab of marble from a mantelpiece fell on it.  The case was taken against Liam Heeney, the Hills Industrial Estate, Lucan, County Dublin, who had installed the fireplace.  The boy fully recovered from his injury.


HSA Issues Guidelines to Reduce Work-Related Crashes

The Health and Safety Authority and Road Safety Authority have issued new guidelines “Driving for Work Guidelines”  that provide “an overview of legislation, how to carry out risk assessments and highlights the significant benefits for businesses and the wider community when work related road safety is managed effectively”.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005 means that employers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of workers who drive for work.

About one third of all road traffic accidents involve a work vehicle and about 76 people die in work-related crashes annually.

The HSA reports that 42% of Irish businesses have no driving for work policy as part of their health and safety management system.  This raises questions about the liability of employers when employees are involved road traffic accidents.


Irish Patients Association Calls on Unions to Avoid Hurting Patients

In a strongly-worded open letter, the Irish Patients Association has today called on unions in the health service to avoid hurting patients during their industrial action.

The letter noted the fatal consequences of previous union activity: Following the death of a patient the family noted that the staff were more interested and focused on putting up notices for a lunch time protest rather than listening to their calls for urgent attention as their family members’ health chronically deteriorated.

The letter goes on to say that union protests cause “chaos for individual patients” and calls for a “balanced solution” to the problems in the health service.

The letter was sent to leaders of IMPACT, T.E.E.U, C.P.S.U, S.I.P.T.U, and I.C.T.U.


Child Awarded 25,000 Euro For Foot Injury At Swimming Pool

Hollie McNevin from Walkinstown Park, Dublin, has had a settlement of €25,000 approved by Judge Joseph Mathews of the Circuit Civil Court for a swimming pool injury.  At the age of nine years, McNevin slipped in the shower in the changing rooms of Templeogue College pool.  McNevin claimed that she hurt her foot on a broken plastic drain and therefore Templeogue College was responsible. The result was eight stitches and a parmanent scar on her foot.


Child Seriously Injured in Car Crash Awarded 2.9 Million Euro

Ben McHale, now four years old of Fethard Road, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, had a settlement of €2.9 million approved by Mr Justice John Quirke in the High Court for suffering blindness and brain injuries in a car accident.  The car was driven by the child’s mother, Disislave McHale, who was driving the car without insurance.  The case was taken against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland since the car was not insured. As the plaintiff was underage, the case was taken by his uncle William McHale, acting as the “next friend” guardian.


Hospital Negligence Case Results in 400,000 euro Settlement from HSE

David Rawlings, an engineer, died in January 2000 following a routine investigative procedure called a laparotomy, a surgical procedure involving an incision through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity.   There were complications during the procedure and Rawlings died the following day.

St James’s Hospital, Dublin and the Health Service Executive did not contest the case and settled for €400,000 before it went to the High Court.  If the case had gone before the High Court, it would have been for damages assessment only.

The payment was divided between between the current wife, Ariuna Rawlings (€250,000), and his previous wife Fiona Rawlings (€150,000), with whom he had a child and was providing financial support.

Because medical negligence was admitted, the exact details of the case were not revealed.


Children Awarded 6,500 euro for Psychological Injury While on Vacation

The parents of two children have just obtained compensation of €6,500 plus legal costs for psychological injury from Budget Travel. Armed intruders broke into their holiday apartment in Lanzarote. The incident happened in May 2002 when the children were 8 and 5 years old.   In a separate claim, the parents obtained compensation of €28,400 plus legal costs at the Circuit Court in Killarney in January 2006 for loss of property, personal trauma and the recovery of the holiday cost.  The family claimed that Budget Travel failed to provide suitably secure accommodation.

The family were staying at Los Orquideas apartments in Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote when they were awoken at 3.00 by three intruders, one of whom was in their children’s bedroom with a long screwdriver.  The gang removed the content of their security box, including €1,600 in cash,  €12,000 in jewellry, passports, and a credit card.


Waterford Man Receives Three Million Sterling Compensation for Road Traffic Accident Injuries

A Waterford man has just made a settlement for £3m in compensation for road traffic accident injuries in an accident that cost the lives of two other people.

Owen Griffin, aged 26 and from Waterford, was asleep in the back of a vehicle that was involved in a head-on collision with a motorcycle in Scotland.  The claim was made against the driver of the car in which Owen Griffin was a seat-belted passenger.

The accident happened in March 2004 and resulted in a coma and brain injuries. Owen Griffen has been living in an assisted living home in Waterford since February 2007.

The settlement was made out of court prior to a High Court hearing in Belfast (the driver was from Omagh in County Tyrone).


Over 31 Million Euro Awarded for Workplace Accident Injuries in 2008

The latest statistics show that €31 million in compensation was awarded for workplace injuries in 2008.

Unlike personal injuries in general where most awards are made to women, three quarters of workplace accident injuries are suffered by men.  There were 972 claims in 2008 resulting in an average award of  €32,266.  One third of awards were for over €38,000 and the largest award was €582,000.

The construction industry suffers the most workplace injuries – 28% of the total.  The statistics show that injuries due to workplace accidents are remarkably well spread around different sectors: manufacturing 20%, hotels and restaurants 13%, retail 12%, public bodies 9%, and transport/storage 5%.

Three quarters of workplace accidents were caused by slips, trips, and falls (44%), lifting or handling (18%), and machinery and defective equipment (16%).

Interestingly, many accident victims have multiple injuries.  The most common injuries are sprains (42%), fractured bones (25%),  cuts (24%), bruises (19%), and crushing (12%).


Law Society of NI Publishes Report on Third Party Capture

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has published a report on Third Party Capture that highlights the problems with the practice and calls for greater protection for the general public. Third Party Capture happens when insurance companies to offer claimants or even potential claimants  compensation for an accident before they are able to engage with a solicitor or obtain medical evidence.

The specific issues that the Law Society has identified are:

  • Wrong information being given to injured parties of the extent of their injuries and their legal
  • Actively discouraging injured parties from seeking a medical opinion and report;
  • Actively discouraging injured parties from obtaining legal advice; and
  • Pressurising injured parties who have not yet recovered from their injuries to make decisions
    through persistent phone calls and door stepping at their home.

One of the unexpected results of the introduction of the Injuries Board Ireland is that insurance companies have become faster in general at offering out-of-court settlements for personal injury claims. The report points out that victims should never settle a case without getting a medical report and it is preferable to get legal advice before settling any personal injury claims.