A profoundly disabled girl with cerebral palsy has secured a €23.5 million settlement, the highest ever in a personal injuries action here, over alleged negligence in the circumstances of her birth at St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork, 16 years ago.
The settlement for Kameela Kuye against the HSE was made without admission of liability and was reached after mediation, the High Court heard.
The girl was in good condition at the onset of her mother’s labour but, when delivered, was “next to death”, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told.
It was claimed, although there was continuous monitoring of the foetal heart rate at the onset of labour, monitoring was intermittent for the last two hours prior to delivery contrary to guidelines by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) then in place.
As a result of the alleged negligence, it was claimed there was failure to recognise signs of foetal distress and failure to intervene to deliver the child before she had suffered such duration of oxygen deprivation as caused severe brain injury which lead to dyskinetic cerebral palsy with permanent profound neurological disabilities.
In its defence, the HSE denied negligence and pleaded the first warning sign which warranted action had arisen just eight minutes before delivery by which time it was too late for any intervention to alter the outcome.
‘Very sad case’
Kameela Kuye, now aged 16, of Kilmoney, Carrigaline, Co Cork, took the case through her father Jimmy Kuye over the circumstances of her birth on December 22nd, 2004.
Dr John O'Mahony SC, with Cian O'Mahony BL, instructed by Emma Meagher Neville solicitor, for Ms Kuye, told the court on Friday this was "a very sad case".
The girl is profoundly disabled, non-verbal, tube fed, doubly incontinent and attends a special school, the court heard.
Kameela Kuye’s parents, who were in court with her, are incredibly devoted and committed to her and have four other children, two of whom are in college, counsel said.
Her mother Ganiyat Kuye, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work, said she and her husband, who works in logistics, support the settlement and wanted to thank their lawyers and the court. Kameela is a much loved member of the family, she outlined.
The judge told Mrs Kuye she and her husband were to be congratulated for their extremely good care of her and he considered the settlement was a "very good" one.
The family have to date lived in rented accommodation unsuitable for her needs and the settlement will provide for the purchase of a new home with a hydrotherapy pool and also provide for the extensive care, therapies and equipment she requires.
Outlining the case, Dr O’Mahony said Kameela was doing well during the labour up to, it would appear, the last two hours of labour but unfortunately monitoring was not continued at an appropriate level and neurological abnormalities were missed.
Kameela was born in extremely poor condition next to death with no sign of life except a poor heartbeat. The “crucial” evidence of negligence is the failure to monitor in the last two hours, he said. He agreed with the judge liability was very much an issue but said he believed they would have proven liability.
A critical part of the case was that the RCOG guidelines for monitoring and management of labour which we say were not followed, he said. His case was she would not have suffered the injuries had there been continuous monitoring and the weight of evidence suggested she would have been born uninjured.
The cord was tightly wrapped around the baby’s neck and continuous monitoring would have detected that, he said. He agreed there was a body of evidence from the defence to counter that but his side considered there were weaknesses in that, including the defence failure to provide the guidelines to his side until last month.
The defence argue the guidelines were followed in a fashion, he said.
The full value of the case was some €30 million but there were issues between the sides, including about life expectancy, he said.
In a statement read after the hearing, Meagher Neville, solicitor for the family, accompanied by Kameela’s mother, said the damages approved by the court, “after a long and arduous battle” represents “a significant figure” in personal injuries litigation here. The settlement was reached without an admission of liability, it was stated.
“No amount of money can change Kameela’s life, and the damages will not alleviate Kameela’s injures, which are profound. However, the settlement reached will assist with Kameela’s care needs into the future and will mean she will have a better quality of life,” she said.
“Kameela has a remarkable family who are pleased that the litigation has been completed, they wish to thank all the experts retained on their behalf and whose assistance facilitated the settlement, and also wish to pay tribute to their daughter Kameela who has the most beautiful smile and a great sense of humour,”she added.