The High Court has approved an interim settlement of €1.4m in the case of a seven-year-old Gleenely girl who was brain damaged after a failure to diagnose a serious medical condition in her mother in the days before her birth. It is believed to be the first case of its kind.
Lawyers for Ruby McCandless criticised the Health Service Executive for the delay in admitting liability in the case.
Afterwards, Mrs McCandless said she was delighted and relieved it was all over, adding that she was happy with the settlement.
Her solicitor Damien Tansey said the settlement would transform Ruby’s life as she would be provided with equipment and facilities.
However, he said it took five years for the case to settle and it was unfortunate that it took the HSE so long to admit liability.
Ruby McCandless sued through her mother, Christina from Gleneely.
The court was told that at her final antenatal check-up at an outreach clinic in Carndonagh Community Hospital in March 2006, Mrs McCandless had her blood pressure taken four times because nurses were so concerned about it.
However, the consultant who reviewed her said her high blood pressure was a borderline case and told her to attend her GP three days later.
Her blood pressure was 140 over 100 and she should have been immediately referred to hospital.
She was not warned about the possibility or symptoms of a serious complication of maternal high blood pressure – pre-eclampsia.
Two days later, she suffered an eclamptic seizure at home, which deprived her baby of oxygen.
She had to be taken by ambulance to Letterkenny General Hospital 72km away, where Ruby was delivered by emergency Caesarean section on 30 March.
In the days following her birth, it became clear she had suffered permanent brain damage.
She has cerebral palsy, is severely physically disabled and will need constant care for the rest of her life.
In her statement of claim on behalf of her daughter, Mrs McCandless alleged there was only one consultant on duty at her final antenatal check-up two days before the birth where there would normally be two.
She said he appeared “harassed and under pressure” and her visit was very short.
It was alleged there was negligence and breach of duty in failing to admit her to hospital and diagnose her condition at the earliest opportunity or to warn her about the symptoms of pre-eclampsia.
Today, the High Court approved an interim settlement of €1.4m and the case will return to court in four years’ time to reassess her needs.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine said the settlement was in the best interests of the young girl.
She said it was the first time an interim settlement had been reached for four years and saved the family the trouble of returning to court every two years.