Court approves €1.95m interim settlement for girl who claimed delay to meningitis diagnosis

HSE filed full defence and denied liability in relation to alleged delay in diagnosing seven-month-old girl

The High Court has approved a €1.95 million interim settlement for a girl who claimed there was a delay in diagnosing and treating her meningitis when she was aged seven months.

The court heard the Health Service Executive (HSE) filed a full defence and denied all liability in the case brought by 14-year-old Sarah Flanagan, suing through her mother Orla Flanagan.

Sarah’s action alleged she suffered devastating neurological injuries, loss and damage due to HSE negligence and breach of duty in allegedly delaying the diagnosis and treatment of her bacterial meningitis.

Barrister Doireann O’Mahony told the court her client, Sarah, was delayed in reaching her childhood milestones and was diagnosed in 2012 with mild cerebral palsy. She requires a special needs assistant in her mainstream school and has come on “leaps and bounds” since the age of 10.


The €1.95 million settlement covers Sarah’s needs in the past and for the next five years, with the case to return to court in 2028.

In May 2009 Sarah was referred by her general practitioner to the emergency department at University College Hospital Galway. Here, it is alleged, there was a delay in diagnosis and treatment, said Ms O’Mahony, instructed by Mitchell & Company Solicitors.

She was seen by a paediatrician and was admitted to the hospital, where blood tests revealed a raised white cell count and abnormal inflammatory markers (C reactive protein), which, the plaintiff alleged, were indicative of a serious bacterial infection, counsel said.

The action claimed a full septic screen should have followed at this point and she should have been immediately given an antibiotic therapy before the results of such a screen were returned.

Ms O’Mahony said there was an alleged 12-hour delay in administering antibiotics to treat Sarah’s condition.

Two days after she arrived at the Galway hospital, Sarah, who lives in Lissavally, Tuam, Co Galway, was transferred to Children’s University Hospital in Temple Street with a confirmed meningitis diagnosis. She remained in hospital for three weeks, the court heard.

Ms O’Mahony said the HSE denies liability.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey inquired about the risks that would arise if the case was to proceed to a hearing. He was satisfied the settlement represents the full value of what would have been achievable if the action went to trial.

He paid tribute to the care provided to Sarah by her parents and approved the settlement.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter