Interim Settlement of Compensation Awarded to Child

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The High Court of Dublin have approved a seven-figure settlement of compensation for a young child that sustained serious injuries because there was a “lack of competent staff” at a hospital.

In August 2012, Eoghan Dunne was brought to the Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, aged just eleven months. Eoghan was experiencing severe respiratory distress and had a very high heart rate. Just a few hours later, his condition became so severe that he was transferred to a special unit in Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

There, Eoghan suffered from a heart attack that was the result of septic shock. This lead to a deprivation of oxygen to Eoghan’s brain, resulting in brain damage that has left Eoghan with a host of life-changing disabilities. Eoghan is now epileptic, visually impaired and unable to speak or walk. He had to stay in hospital for six months after the heart attack and now he will be reliant on twenty-four hour care for the rest of his life.

An investigation concerning Eoghan’s injuries concluded that there many many factors that contributed to his injuries, all relating to a substandard level of care at the Portiuncula Hospital. The final report claims that the hospital was not adequately equipped for severe cases such as Eoghan’s. It also noted that they directly contradicted HSE policy for sepsis by failing to administer antibiotics. It also alleges that “a lack of competent staff” was to blame for the delayed transfer to Temple Street.

Teresa and Ronan Dunne, Eoghan’s parents, decided to seek legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Portiuncula Hospital and the HSE. They alleged that the injuries sustained by their son would not have been as severe should staff at the hospital acted appropriately. The HSE maintained that there was no negligence, denying to concede liability for Eoghan’s current condition.

As such, the case was due to proceed to a full court hearing. Yet, shortly before this was to commence, the HSE acknowledged their culpability and made the offer of €2.4 million as an interim settlement of compensation. This was accepted by the family, though needed to be approved by a judge in the High Court before it could be awarded as the claim was for a minor.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross, presided over the approval hearing and asserted his belief that the settlement was fair and added his anger that liability was not admitted sooner, as Eoghan could have then received therapy during a crucial period of development. The case has now been adjourned for a further assessment of damages.