Brain-damaged boy awarded damages totalling €17.8m

Tadgh Costello suffered ‘devastating’ injuries during birth at Kerry General Hospital

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A boy who suffered “devastating” brain injuries during his birth at Kerry General Hospital has received a €15 million lump sum payment in the final settlement of his High Court case.

This brings to €17.8 million the total paid out to Tadgh Costello (10) under the settlement of his action.

Tadgh, of Killorglin, Co Kerry, needs 24-hour care, cannot speak and uses a wheelchair. As he has been made a ward of court, the money will be paid into court to provide for his lifelong care.

Approving the settlement, High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly paid tribute to the child’s parents Mary and Gerard Costello for their care of their son and their other children.

The settlement made “commercial, common and legal sense”, the judge said.

While no money would compensate Tadgh and his family, it was the only form of redress the law could provide and will give peace of mind that there is a fund to care for Tadgh’s needs in to the future, he added.

Wishing the family the best, the judge said he was sure they would be glad to leave the Four Courts behind.

Mary Costello previously said the family had been treated very badly over the years, with liability not admitted in the case until early 2015. She said a consultant involved in the case had, after the birth, shown remorse and cried during a private meeting with herself and her husband but the HSE fought the case for the next nine years.

In March 2015, the child received an interim payment of €2.8 million and an apology from the HSE under the settlement.

When the case returned to court on Tuesday, the judge was asked to approve a final settlement with the effect that Tadgh will receive a total of €17.8 million.

Through his mother, the boy sued the HSE over the circumstances of his birth at Kerry General Hospital on May 25th, 2006.

Liam Reidy SC, for Tadgh, said there was a two-hour delay in delivering the baby by Caesarean section during which he suffered brain damage. He was later diagnosed with mixed dyskinetic spastic cerebral palsy.

Benefit soured

During a private meeting in 2006, a consultant obstetrician acknowledged wrong had been done and cried with the parents but the benefit of that was soured because the family spent nine years looking after their son without any supports and fighting a legal battle, counsel said. Liability was admitted in early 2015 after a threat of claiming aggravated damages was made, he added.

It was claimed there was failure to deliver the baby on a timely basis and to treat the matter as an emergency.

Mrs Costello, it was also alleged, had to travel an unacceptable distance to the operating theatre.

There were other failures, it was claimed, to ensure the consultant obstetrician was aware of a worrisome heart-rate pattern documented by the midwife, to regard the CTG recording as pathological and to consider the possibility of foetal hypoxia.

In an apology on behalf of the HSE read to the court in March 2015, the hospital apologised unreservedly to the family for the injuries the child sustained at his birth.

“Sadly, we are unable to change what happened to Tadgh, but we would like to inform you that we have since introduced specific guidelines and protocols to assist us in preventing adverse outcomes in the future,” the apology added.

‘Darling boy’

In a statement after Tuesday’s ruling, Gerard and Mary Costello said: “Today marks the end of a very long struggle in finally getting justice for our darling boy Tadgh.”

The boy’s parents added that the family were pleased this legal chapter was now closed and that they can move on with the rest of their lives.

“The courts are not the place for a family like ours with a disabled child, however, we are grateful that the legal system prevailed to see that justice was done today for Tadgh.”

“When people see multimillion euro sums in such cases, there can be a misunderstanding that was somehow ‘a cash windfall’”, he said. The funds will be held and managed in court as Tadgh is a ward of court, they said.

The size of the settlement reflects Tadgh’s devastating injuries which are life changing and require 24-hour specialist lifelong care, the statement added.

They also called on the Government to further investigate the safety records in hospitals to prevent similar cases happening.

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