Girl (14) with cerebral palsy secures €1.5m settlement

Mary Malee tells High Court she would have appreciated an apology

Mary Malee (15), of Bohola, Co Mayo, leaving the High Court today with family members and their legal team. Photograph: Collins Courts

Mary Malee (15), of Bohola, Co Mayo, leaving the High Court today with family members and their legal team. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A teenage girl with cerebral palsy who secured a payment of €1.5 million under an interim settlement of her action over alleged negligence in her birth at Mayo General Hospital has told the High Court she would have appreciated an apology.

The settlement of Mary Malee’s action was made without admission of liability but her case was that, had she been delivered earlier, she would have been spared her injuries, the court was told.

Aongus O’Brolcháin SC, for Ms Malee, said she is a “very bright and terribly popular” girl with terrific family support who hopes to proceed to third level education. She has certain physical deficits but is coping exceptionally well, he added.

The case will return to the court in two years for assessment of costs of future care needs, including a house expected to cost about €500,000.

Ms Malee, sitting in a wheelchair, read a short statement to the court in which she said her condition is not equivalent to having a broken leg in a cast for eight weeks, but a life condition.

“Cerebral palsy won’t kill me, but I have to learn to live with it,” she said. “This shouldn’t have happened to me and others like me. It would have been appreciated had the HSE/Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar said they were sorry, but at least the payment of the compensation lessens the future financial worries.”

Ms Justice Mary Irvine, who sat beside Ms Malee while she read her statement, said it was “very touching and moving”. The judge approved the interim settlement as a “very good” settlement.

Ms Malee, Shanaghy, Bohola, Swinford, Co Mayo, through her mother Maura, had sued the HSE over alleged negligence in the circumstances of her birth at Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar on October 11th, 1999.

It was alleged there was failure to intervene and carry out a caesarean section in a proper and timely manner and failure to ensure the presence of a skilled paediatrician at the birth of the baby. It was also alleged it was known in advance of delivery the baby was suffering foetal distress and likely to require expert resuscitation.

The HSE denied the claims.

Outlining the claim, Mr O’Brolcháin said Mary was Mrs Malee’s fourth and last child and she had attended the consultant gynaecologist who had delivered her other children. The gynaecologist had on October 8th, 1999, advised her she had raised blood pressure and to go to hospital the next day and be prepared for induction of labour.

The gynaecologist told her he would not be able to attend as he had a cancer diagnosis and was about to begin treatment but would make arrangements for her care to be transferred to another consultant, it was claimed.

Counsel said Mrs Malee attended her GP on October 9th, who told her to go to hospital immediately as she had symptoms of pre-eclampsia. She was admitted to hospital and on October 11th was transferred to the labour ward, where a third CTG trace was commenced. A fourth CTG shortly after 6am showed a series of decelerations and a consultant was called who said he was in Letterkenny.

Another consultant was contacted who arrived and assisted in the delivery. Counsel said the delivery was complicated and Mary was not born until 7.20am. A caesarean should have been carried out earlier, counsel said. 

Outside the court, solicitor Michael Boylan said it had been a long, hard struggle for the Malee family and they were relieved Mary’s future is secure. “She was immensely brave to read her statement in court. You have to focus on her abilities, not her disabilities. She is a real winner,” he said.