Girl (11) with cerebral palsy settles case over management of birth at Waterford hospital

Settlement, which was reached without any admission of liability, includes interim payment of €1.9m

An 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has settled her High Court damages claim over the circumstances of her birth at Waterford Regional Hospital.

Emily O’Connor Ahearne, who lives outside Dungarvan, Co Waterford, had through her mother sued the HSE over the management of her birth on June 2nd, 2011, at the hospital.

The settlement, which was reached without an admission of liability, includes an interim payment of €1.9 million which is to provide for the girl’s needs over the next five years. The claims were denied.

The settlement was approved on Thursday by Mr Justice Paul Coffey.


He said the settlement was an excellent one, and he allowed the immediate payout of funds for a new wheelchair for the girl, a specially adapted car and a new home for the family.

Emily O’Connor Ahearne has a severe intellectual disability, is fed through a tube and cannot speak, the court heard.

Ann O’Connor Ahearne had attended the hospital in early labour and, it was claimed, there was a failure to respond to signs of foetal distress.

The family’s counsel, Liam Reidy SC, told the court liability was at issue in the case.

His legal team contended that a foetal heart rate reading allegedly showed signs that Ms O’Connor Ahearn required an immediate caesarean section

His side conceded, however, that a significant event occurred in utero before arrival at the hospital. This, he said, was allegedly made worse by allowing the labour to continue.

Ms O’Connor Ahearne told the judge how she had had to fight the HSE for therapies and even wheelchairs for her brain-damaged daughter who cannot speak, has cerebral palsy and is spastic quadriplegic. She and her husband Liam look after their daughter every day.

“She has been through every crack imaginable with the HSE, fighting for wheelchairs, physiotherapy and other therapy,” she said.

“It’s a shambles, our daughter Emily has been badly let down,” she said.

Ms O’Connor Ahearne said her daughter is the “queen of the house” and loves being out and about. However, she said: “The world was not made for people like Emily.”

The judge said he hoped the resolution of the legal proceedings would bring the couple “serenity” in knowing they have achieved everything they could in the legal process.