Family settles cases against hospitals over deaths of father and son

Eddie Lonergan and his son PJ Lonergan both died one day after being discharged


A Tipperary family has received High Court settlements from two different hospitals following the deaths of a father and his son.

South Tipperary General Hospital apologised in the High Court to the family of PJ Lonergan (39) who died of an acute irregular heart beat the morning after he was sent home from the hospital where two ECG tests were conducted.

The apology was read out in the High Court as Mr Lonergan’s son Mark (19) settled for €900,000 his action against the HSE over the care of his father at the Tipperary hospital four years ago.

In a separate case before the High Court on Thursday, the Department of Psychiatry at St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny also apologised to the Lonergan family as they settled an action against the HSE over the death of PJ Lonergan’s father, Eddie Lonergan (74), who died on January 10th, 2013, the day after he was discharged from the hospital where he was receiving psychiatric care. He had been transferred to St Luke’s from South Tipperary General Hospital.

Approving both settlements, Mr Justice Kevin Cross sympathised with the Lonergan family of Templenoe, Cashel, on their sad loss and said he hoped they would now be able to get on with their lives.

The settlement in relation to the death of Eddie Lonergan was confidential.

PJ Lonergan’s son Mark sued the HSE through his mother Anne Marie Butler over the death of his father on May 7th, 2014.

It was claimed there was a failure to admit PJ Lonergan to hospital on May 6th, 2014 when he presented at the emergency department and had two ECGs.

It was claimed there was also an alleged failure to pay sufficient heed to an abnormal ECG and an alleged failure to consider all the possible different diagnoses for a patient with abnormal ECG findings.

Mark Lonergan’s counsel Aidan Doyle SC said the HSE accepted PJ Lonergan should not have been discharged but contended that had the heart attack taken place in the hospital, the result may have been the same.

South Tipperary General Hospital apologised for shortcomings in the care of PJ Lonergan.

The hospital also extended its sympathy to the Lonergan family and acknowledged his death had been a great source of distress to his family.

Mr Doyle said PJ Lonergan, a stove engineer, went to his GP and was referred to the Clonmel hospital on March 6th, 2014.

He was triaged and had two ECGs. The first showed changes but a second ECG showed an improvement and Mr Lonergan was deemed fit for discharge.

Mr Doyle said it was their case PJ Lonergan should not have been discharged from hospital given the findings of one of the ECGs.

Approving the €900,000 settlement the judge said it was a very sad case but the settlement was an excellent one.

In the second case before the court, Esther Lonergan, PJ Lonergan’s mother, settled her action over the death of her husband Eddie Lonergan on January 10th, 2013.

The court heard she had been married to Eddie for 50 years when he took his own life on January 10th, 2013, the day after he was discharged from St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny where he had been receiving psychiatric care.

St Luke’s Hospital apologised to Ms Lonergan and the Lonergan family for the care provided to Eddie Lonergan.

Ms Lonergan’s counsel Jeremy Maher SC said Eddie Lonergan was a father and grandfather and that 2013 was another tragic year for the Lonergan family.

The court heard Eddie Lonergan was transferred to St Luke’s Hospital, a designated centre for acute psychiatric care, on January 8th, 2013. The following day he was discharged from St Luke’s.

Mr Maher said it was his client’s position that Eddie Lonergan should not have been discharged from St Luke’s.

Eddie Lonergan disappeared after his release and his body was found in a field on January 10th.

Speaking outside court Cian O’Carroll, solicitor for the family said the family “were obliged to bring legal proceedings in order to achieve an apology, in order to bring the health service to the point of acknowledging publicly the wrong that had been done to the family members and the harm that had been done to the extended family. And that’s the repeated lesson that people ask the health service to learn – acknowledge early and make the pain a little easier for those who have lost so much”.

Esther Lonergan added: “We feel let down by the health board and it would have been nice if the apology had come earlier rather than later…. I think it takes from the apology which is a pity really … and for it to happen twice to the family in 16 months I think you know they will have to learn something from this … this shouldn’t happen to somebody else”.