Mother’s heroism praised as case over girl’s birth injuries settles for interim €8m

Counsel for Caitlin Twomey (9) argued ‘red flags’ missed during labour which led to brain damage

Michelle Twomey and  her daughter Caitlin (9) outside the Four Courts in  Dublin on Tuesday. A judge praised Ms Twomey’s heroism as Caitlin received an apology and settled a case over  injuiries she sustained at the time of her birth. Photograph: Collins Courts

Michelle Twomey and her daughter Caitlin (9) outside the Four Courts in Dublin on Tuesday. A judge praised Ms Twomey’s heroism as Caitlin received an apology and settled a case over injuiries she sustained at the time of her birth. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) has apologised unreservedly to a nine-year-old girl over life changing injuries she suffered at the time of her birth.

The apology was read in the High Court as Caitlin Twomey, from Ballincollig, Co Cork, settled her action on terms including an interim payment of €8 million for the next 10 years. The case will return to court in 2031 for assessment of her further care needs.

Dr John O’Mahony SC, with Cian O’Mahony BL, for Caitlin, said she has cerebral palsy, is unable to safely walk unaided and can only say some words.

“She is profoundly disabled. She requires 24/7 care,” he said.

The family’s case was that there were “red flags” during labour which went unobserved and misunderstood and that Caitlin suffered very serious brain damage as a result. Liability in the case was admitted in August.

CUMH’s clinical director Prof John Higgins apologised unreservedly to Caitlin and her family “for the life changing injuries caused” at the time of her delivery in the hospital on December 13th, 2011.

‘Enormous difficulties’

In a letter on behalf of the hospital, he said he knew Caitlin and her family “have faced enormous difficulties since these events and we want to express our sincere regret” for what happened.

Caitlin, through her mother Michelle Twomey, sued the HSE over the circumstances of her birth. It was claimed there was a failure to act in a timely and appropriate manner in response to the signs of foetal distress, which it was claimed were permitted to continue and to worsen.

It was further claimed there was a failure to take the necessary step of stopping the administering of syntocinon, a drug used to bring on labour, when the frequency of Ms Twomey’s contractions was excessive.

It was also claimed there were failures to have regard to the abnormalities, including decelerations on the CTG trace, which monitors the baby’s heartbeat; to summon a senior doctor; and to intervene to deliver the baby no later than 6.50pm. Caitlin was delivered at 7.59pm and was in a poor condition, blue and limp. She remained in the special care unit at CUMH for 11 days.

Dr O’Mahony said the ultimate value of the case would be in the region of €55 million and the interim settlement for 10 years was one of the highest to date.

Heroism

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said it was a sad and tragic case. He praised the heroism of Ms Twomey and her family for the care they give to Caitlin, noting that her needs are considerable.

Speaking outside the court, Anne Marie Donnelly, solicitor for the Twomeys, said it had been a good day for Caitlin and her family.

“It is disappointing that liability was denied to Caitlin’s mother Michelle for a number of years and was only admitted approximately two months ago. This delay caused distress and anxiety to Michelle and her family,” she said.

“The apology received from CUMH for their failings in the care provided to Caitlin which led to her suffering these life altering injuries is welcome.”

Ms Donnelly said Ms Twomey has been nothing short of inspirational in the loving care given to her daughter each day since she was born.

“The court ruling today will enable Michelle to provide care to Caitlin in a sustainable manner and she can now access the various therapies which were previously unavailable to her.”