Brain-damaged woman agrees €4m settlement with HSE

No admission of liability made after claim that lack of oxygen at birth led to injury

A brain-damaged young woman has secured a €4 million settlement against the HSE over injuries allegedly arising out of the circumstances of her birth. The settlement was made without admission of liability.

The action was brought on behalf of Rachel McCarthy, now aged 27, arising out of the circumstances of her birth at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny on December 9th, 1989.

It was alleged the HSE was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards Rachel in the manner in which her birth was managed. It was claimed she suffered a lack of oxygen to the brain causing her to suffered a brain injury.

It was claimed the level of care provided after her mother presented at the hospital on the day of her birth was sub-standard, her counsel Jeremy Maher SC told the High Court.


Rachel should have been delivered by Caesarean section at a time much earlier than she was, counsel said.

The claims were denied and the settlement was made without admission of liability.

On Friday, Mr Justice Raymond Fullam approved the €4 million settlement in favour of Rachel, from Johnstown, Co Kilkenny, who sued through her mother Noreen.

Seeking approval of the settlement earlier, Mr Maher, with Patrick Treacy SC and David Humphries, said the settlement was a good one and represented 75 per cent of the full value of the claim.

Rachel was the fourth child of Noreen McCarthy and her husband Edward and was born after her mother presented at St Luke’s shortly before 7am on December 9th, 1989. Mrs McCarthy was bleeding, he said.

While the initial care provided to Mrs McCarthy was not at issue, it was alleged the standard of care provided afterwards was substandard, counsel said.

‘Full defence’

It was their case that the defendant failed to have sufficient CTG monitoring after providing an initial scan on the infant or when Mrs McCarthy started to have irregular contractions. Counsel also said their case was that Rachel should have been delivered by a Caesarean section by 5pm that day at the latest.

Following her delivery, Rachel was moved to Waterford Regional Hospital. Counsel said she suffered cognitive injuries but did not suffer from any physical injuries.

He said there was “a full defence” to the claim, including a plea that the injuries sustained by Rachel did not occur during the circumstances of her birth but at an earlier stage of the pregnancy.

The fact Rachel did not sustain physical injuries was also indicative of injuries that were not sustained during her birth, the HSE also pleaded. It was further pleaded there had been delay in bringing the claim.

Mr Maher said while his side were fully confident of countering all strands of the HSE’s defence and had expert medical evidence to support their claims, there was no guarantee of success if the case went to trial.

Rachel, counsel said, was one of seven children. While her life has been “difficult”, she has very caring and extraordinary parents and siblings and the reason she has got on so well in life was due to their efforts.

She had attended school for children with special needs and was currently attending a Rehab facility in Kilkenny where she did activities including art and learns various life skills but would never be capable of independent living, he said.

Mr Justice Fullam said he had no difficult in approving the settlement and wished the McCarthy family well.

Speaking afterwards, the family’s solicitor Cian O’Carroll said they were happy with the settlement.