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Hospital Fall Injury Claim Resolved at Circuit Civil Court

A hospital fall injury claim has been resolved at the Circuit Civil Court in favour of a seventy-nine year old woman who fractured her spine in the accident.

In April 2015, the woman attended the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin for a routine gastroscopy. Following a successful procedure, she was given a cup of tea as she started to come out of the general anaesthetic, and left alone on the recovery unit. Unfortunately, as the woman attempted to get out of bed, she fell – fracturing her spine when she landed on the floor.

Rather than attending the hospital as a day patient as had been intended, the woman spent a further month at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital before being transferred to the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf for specialised treatment. She remained at the Clontarf hospital for a further three months before being removed by her daughter to be cared for at home.

The woman, who prior to her fall had lived an independent life, now requires full-time care. She has to wear a lumbar brace at all times and uses a Zimmer frame for walking. After seeking legal advice, the woman made a hospital fall injury claim against the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, alleging that the hospital had failed to adhere to its own falls prevention policy.

At the Circuit Civil Court, Judge James O´Donohoe heard that due to the injury in the hospital fall the woman was no longer the woman she previously was. He was also told that the woman had required hospital treatment previously following a fall at her home in November 2014, and the hospital should have reasonably been aware of this and monitored her closely.

Judge O´Donohoe heard evidence from the recovery unit´s Head of Nursing, but said “what speaks volumes to this court is that the ward nurse who attended the plaintiff was not called to give evidence.” The judge also accepted the evident of an expert witness who testified the Mater Hospital had failed to comply with its standard falls prevention policy.

Finding in favour of the plaintiff, Judge O´Donohoe said the gastroscopy had a good outcome but tragically things changed for the worse. Initially awarding the woman €58,500 in settlement of her hospital fall injury claim, the judge granted a stay pending a possible appeal on the proviso a partial settlement of €30,000 was paid immediately.