€6.3m settlement for ‘Grace’ among highest for such a case

Unusual feature of settlement is its inclusion of general damages award for €600,000

The unusual construction of the settlement is intended to ensure “Grace”, for the rest of her life, will get the care she was deprived of for decades. File photograph: iStockPhoto

The unusual construction of the settlement is intended to ensure “Grace”, for the rest of her life, will get the care she was deprived of for decades. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

A €6.3 million settlement package for the profoundly intellectually disabled and voiceless woman known as “Grace” is among the highest ever agreed for such a case.

A particularly unusual feature of the settlement, agreed by the HSE and approved yesterday by the High Court, is its inclusion of a general damages award for €600,000, when the maximum such award in catastrophic injury cases is €450,000.

The additional €150,000 is for punitive damages, to reflect what High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly described as the “scandal” of the “abdication” of responsibility for Grace over years from when she was a child until her early 30s by the relevant State agencies.

The unusual construction of the settlement is intended to ensure Grace, for the rest of her life, will get the care she was deprived of for decades. The cost of annual one-to-one day care is about €120,000, and the HSE will also fund night-time care and various therapies.

Given the agency failures over 20 years to 2009, the judge got a HSE representative to give sworn undertakings to the court to abide by the settlement.

It includes other unusual features such as permitting Grace keep her medical card, a concession worth €300,000, plus €275,000 to reflect, because of the settlement, that she will not now be legally entitled to disability allowance.

Another €87,000 is to compensate for the fact that another person had signed for Grace’s weekly disability allowance over years.

Having been entrusted by her mother to HSE care as a child in the 1980s, Grace was finally in 2009 removed from a foster family with whom she had been placed in 1989.

Allegations of sexual abuse

She was left with them for 13 years after 1996, when other foster children were removed arising from allegations of sexual abuse and evidence of physical abuse and neglect.

She was left there despite being “literally voiceless” and the most vulnerable of the children, said Sara Moorhead SC, for the court-appointed committee that sued the HSE on behalf of Grace after she was made a ward of court.

When removed in 2009, her only possession was a child’s toy to which she clung for “dear life”.

The judge paid particular tribute to a social worker in court who was crucial in exposing Grace’s plight when she got involved in her case in 2008. What the woman did was of “extraordinary benefit”, and Grace’s condition has greatly improved since, he said.