Girl settles case over brain damage after surgery for €3m

Interim payment to Chloe Flaherty (14) one of the largest in the history of the courts, solicitor says

The High Court has approved an interim payment of €3 million in a settlement for a girl who suffered brain damage after allegedly being discharged from hospital without antibiotics following cranial surgery when she was 18-months-old.

Chloe Flaherty, now 14, is physically disabled and mentally challenged. She was discharged from the Children's University Hospital (CUH), Temple Street in Dublin in 2009 without antibiotic cover or prescription despite having required antibiotics up to the day of her discharge, it was claimed.

Liability was not admitted by the hospital.

The action was taken through Chloe's father, Patrick Flaherty, of Radharc Na Farraige, Ballymoneen Road, Knocknacarra, Co Galway.

It was claimed, among other things, that the hospital failed to take measures to ensure she was free from infection prior to discharge, failed to clarify the cause of her persistent high temperatures, and failed to provide sufficient information or advice to the parents about monitoring for further infection.

The claims were denied.

Spikes in temperature

Des O'Neill SC, instructed by Damien Tansey Solicitors, for Chloe, said the operation involved the opening of the skull. After the surgery, he said, Chloe was detained in hospital for 10 days suffering spikes in temperature, which required intravenous and oral antibiotics throughout her stay. She was discharged without any antibiotic cover or plan, he said.

Over the following week her high temperatures continued and the parents received assurances her recovery was to be expected and the temperatures should be dealt with by giving her Calpol and analgesics. These reduced the temperature but did not address the underlying situation, he said.

A week later, Chloe was found lying on her side and “continued to fit for at least an hour” before she was taken to hospital by ambulance, counsel said. She suffered catastrophic brain damage and has been physically disabled, requiring a wheelchair, and mentally challenged since then. She will require care for the rest of her life.

He noted there was a significant dispute on liability.

The girl's parents, Patrick and Samatha Flaherty, have "heroically kept Chloe's needs to the forefront for the last 12 years, he said. Both have been unable to engage in any work since her release from hospital.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey said he was satisfied that the interim settlement was reasonable and approved it. He gave his best wishes to the Flahertys.

Culmination

Speaking outside the court, Ciaran Tansey, solicitor for the family, said the settlement marked the culmination of a 10- year battle by the Flahertys on behalf of Chloe. It was one of the largest in the history of the courts as it will return to court in four years time with full liability accepted to provide for her care for the rest of her life, he said.

In 2009, he said things “went horribly wrong” for Chloe in terms of the treatment she received. The dispute was settled on the steps of the court last Friday.

“That said, today’s settlement will never offer adequate recompense for Chloe and Samatha and Patrick,” Mr Tansey said. “While she will be looked after financially, far more important is the care and love that has been offered to her for the past 12 years by the two people standing beside me (Chloe’s parents).”

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