Girl (7) who suffered brain damage settles action for €2.4m

Court found water on the brain should have been detected

A girl who suffered brain damage due to water on the brain has secured an interim payment of €2.4 million under a settlement of her High Court action. The payment is to cover the care of Ava Kiernan, now aged seven, over the next 10 years.

The court had previously found the water on the brain condition which caused damage to Ava as a baby would have been detected if a public nurse had, during regular check ups, taken appropriate action.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross ruled there was failure on the part of the public health nurse to record the concerns of baby Ava Kiernan's mother; to properly record the head circumference at 46.5cm; and to have the child recalled in a few weeks for a further examination.

“These represent a failure of the public health nurse such as no public health nurse of equal speciality, status or skill would be guilty of if acting with ordinary care,” he said.


The failures were “materially causative” of seven year old Ava’s present condition as, had appropriate action been taken by the public health nurse, the child would not have suffered the significant neurological damage she had, he found.

Through her mother Ruth Kiernan, of Cillcarbin, Duleek, Co Meath, the child sued the HSE for negligence.

It was claimed her serious neurological symptoms attributable to hydrocephalus, water on the brain, were caused by failure to detect the condition prior to its causing significant damage.

The HSE denied the claims but said there was an incorrect head circumference measurement recorded on September 8th, 2008.

Last March, Mr Justice Cross found the HSE was liable in relation to two check ups, but not for a check up when the baby was three months old.

He said if baby Ava been recalled four weeks or so after an April 2008 check up, further head circumference increases would have been found and she would have been referred to a doctor and onto a specialist and the necessary scans would have revealed the developing problem.

The public health nurse, referred to as R, was unfit to attend court or give evidence in the case, the court heard.

In court, Mr Justice Moriarty was told the case had been settled with an interim payout of €2.4 million for the next 10 years.

In a statement to the court, Andrew Kiernan, father of Ava, said the settlement marked the beginning of a new life for their daughter who has spent far too much time in hospital undergoing medical interventions and tests.

“As a family the last seven years have been extremely difficult and we are delighted to be standing here in a position where we can finally put the pressure and stress that this case has brought behind us.

“This court has proven to us all that numerous mistakes were made in the care and attention that Ava received as a baby,” he said.

“Unfortunately, when mistakes are made in the medical profession, somebody suffers as a result,” he said.

“It is disgraceful to think that having suffered at the hands of mistakes, families must then suffer even further stress and heartache in order to uncover the truth and secure the future care needs of their children.

"As a result of the lack of candour by the medical profession in Ireland and in this case, the HSE and the State Claims Agency, we have been forced to put our lives and the lives of our children in an extremely perilous position so that we can understand why Ava suffered her injuries and to secure the services and care that she will no doubt need for the rest of her life."

Mr Kiernan said it was “unacceptable” the HSE and the State Claims Agency “can deny liability for Ava’s injuries and can take our family to the brink of the Court of Appeal knowing the evidence before them, the suffering Ava has to endure and the impact on our wider family”.

The family sincerely hoped lessons have been learned as a result of Ava’s case, he added.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times