A 27-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who sued over the care she received after her birth at a now-closed private maternity hospital in Cork city has settled her High Court action for €12 million.
Jane Harte, who cannot speak or walk and has spastic quadriplegia, took the action over her care at City General Hospital, Infirmary Road, Cork, in 1995 where her mother, then 16 years old, was a patient.
After the High Court approved the settlement on Wednesday, Jane’s mother said the conclusion of the case was “life-changing” for her daughter who will now be able to return home after living at a facility in Cork city.
“She is going to have a life with her family and siblings which she always deserved and which was taken from us really, " said Olivia Harte.
Jane will be able to get physio, to swim and will have a “far better quality of life”, she added.
The case was against retired consultant and gynaecologist Pallany Pillay (88), also of Cork City, who was the proprietor of City General Hospital, which closed in 2000. Mr Pillay was also a consultant at the hospital, and Jane’s mother, Olivia, was his private patient.
Liability was contested in the case and the settlement is without an admission of liability. It followed mediation talks between the parties.
At the opening of the case, Jane’s counsel, Dr John O’Mahony SC, told the court it was their case that after she was born healthy but had significant difficulty with her breathing and “went dramatically downhill”.
Counsel said that when she was transferred to the Erinville Hospital at 17 hours old she was “literally in extremis with severe septic shock” and later meningitis.
Dr O’Mahony, instructed by Callan Tansey solicitors, told the court that it was their case appropriate steps should have been taken at City General Hospital and, if given antibiotics, Jane would have recovered.
Counsel for Mr Pillay, Adrienne Egan SC, told Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds on Tuesday that liability was contested.
She said it was accepted that the baby developed meningitis but at issue in the case was when the relevant symptoms arose.
Counsel said records from the closed hospital were destroyed in 2015 and these proceedings were initiated three years ago.
In the proceedings, it was claimed Jane started to grunt after her birth on October 8th, 1995, and that her mother clearly recalls the baby’s noisy breathing and moaning that allegedly worsened as time passed.
Despite showing worsening respiratory distress the baby did not receive any antibiotics, the case alleges.
It was claimed this was despite her mother and other relatives who were present at the hospital repeatedly expressing their serious concerns for the baby’s wellbeing.
She was transferred to the neonatal until of the then-Erinville Hospital in her grandmother’s car and accompanied by a midwife.
On the baby’s arrival at the Erinville she was close to death, it was claimed.
It was claimed there was a delay in the treatment of the baby’s Group B streptococcus early-onset sepsis and meningitis. It is claimed that had she been treated appropriately when she first exhibited respiratory distress she would not have developed septic shock and meningitis.
The alleged delay in administering antibiotics allegedly caused septic shock and meningitis which caused her brain damage.
All of the claims were denied.