Parents of severely brain-damaged boy face legal bill of €500,000
THE PARENTS of a severely brain-damaged child are facing a legal bill of more than €500,000 after losing their High Court action over alleged negligence in their son’s treatment after birth at the National Maternity Hospital.
Linda Duffy, of Glen Drive, The Park, Cabinteely, Dublin, wiped away tears as Mr Justice Seán Ryan said he had no choice under law but to award half of the costs of the long-running case over the treatment of her 10-year-old son Mark, who has cerebral palsy, against her to the hospital, which had sought all its costs.
The only assets of Ms Duffy, a primary school teacher, and her husband, Anthony, who works in property maintenance, are their family home, the court heard.
The couple have three children, the eldest of whom is Mark, who is profoundly disabled and requires 24-hour care after suffering severe brain injuries and loss of an eye after contracting meningitis after his premature birth.
The judge said while the normal rule required costs to go to the winning side, he was reducing the costs order to 50 per cent arising from an “extremely rare and unusual development” which was that the National Maternity Hospital raised an issue during the case which delayed it for up to five months and was ultimately not pursued.
While he was not according any blame to the hospital for raising the issue, which required DNA analysis, it had added to the stress and worry experienced by the parents as the case (which began in November 2011 with judgment last August) was delayed.
The judge stressed that he was very sympathetic to the parents, very much admired them and their son, and was very troubled by all the matters raised on their behalf in opposing costs. If there was any way he could legitimately avoid awarding costs against them he would do so but under the law felt he had no choice.
Earlier yesterday, seeking all the hospital costs, Patrick Hanratty SC said the normal rule of costs should apply, and the fact the hospital had had to investigate an issue which delayed the case for a period should not affect that.
Resisting the costs application, Bruce Antoniotti SC, for the parents, asked the judge to make no order for costs, meaning each side pay their own. This was not an unmeritorious case, and his clients had relied on the views of world renowned experts when deciding to bring it.
He said the parents had an obligation to pursue any means of providing for their severely injured child’s security.
Mr Antoniotti also referred to another judge’s decision in a commercial case where just some of the costs were awarded, but Mr Hanratty argued that that case provided no grounds for not adhering to the normal order that costs go to the winning side.