Settlement of €1.5m for severely disabled woman approved by court

Opera singer Elaine Lennon suffered severe injuries due to failures to properly diagnose headaches

The High Court was previously told Elaine Lennon would have been fine had a CT scan of her brain  been carried out in time. Photograph: Collins

The High Court was previously told Elaine Lennon would have been fine had a CT scan of her brain been carried out in time. Photograph: Collins

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A judge has approved a further €1.5m settlement of medical negligence proceedings brought on behalf of a severely disabled young woman, bringing her total settlement to date to more than €5.1m.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly noted Elaine Lennon was a talented opera singer who was pursuing a masters in psychology when she suffered the injuries.

She is also one of many catastrophically injured plaintiffs adversely affected by the continuing delay over years to enact laws allowing for lifelong payments in such cases and this was her fourth time to have to come to court to have her future care needs assessed, he said.

This latest payment of some €1.5m is intended to cover her care for the next five years by which time he hoped the legislation, recommended more than six and a half years ago, would definitely have been enacted.

Noting Ms Lennon, who is a ward of court, and her court appointed wards of court committee of her mother and partner, were all happy with the settlement, he granted the application by her counsel Denis McCullough SC, for approval of it.

Mr McCullough said Ms Lennon is very determined and her condition has improved somewhat since she was last before the court. While she remains often confined to a wheelchair, she can manage to walk significant distances with the assistance of carers.

She can no longer sing and, had she not suffered her injuries, may have pursued a professional career in music or psychology, he said. She had previously been offered work with Riverdance.

Ms Lennon (42), a mother of one, suffered severe injuries in 2007 due to failures to properly diagnose the cause of her headaches. Suing through her now deceased father John Lennon, Ms Lennon had sued the HSE and Dr Patrick Mathuna, a GP at Castle Mill Medical Centre, Balbriggan, arising from her injuries. Liability was admitted by both defendants.

Formerly of Newhaven Bay, Balbriggan, and now living in Kilbarrack, Dublin, she was 39 weeks pregnant at the time of her injury and later gave birth to her daughter Claudia. The High Court was previously told she would have been fine had a CT scan of her brain had been carried out in time.

In the action, it was alleged Ms Lennon arrived at the accident and emergency unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co Louth, on February 4th, 2007 complaining of headaches and was diagnosed by a medical registrar as suffering from a urinary tract infection and dehydration.

As she was pregnant, she was assessed by a midwife and later underwent a Caesarean section. Doctors at the hospital twice queried whether she should have a CT scan of her brain but none was carried out.

She was discharged on February 11th along with her baby but continued to suffer from headaches and was vomiting. She attended Dr Mathuna’s clinic on February 14th when she was given an injection which worked for around 24 hours.

Dr Mathuna called to her on February 17th, told her he believed she could be suffering post-natal depression and exhaustion and prescribed a sedative, it was claimed. Later that day, she collapsed at home and was taken to hospital where a CT scan carried out the next day revealed an abscess in her brain had burst.

It was alleged the HSE, as operator of the hospital, was negligent in failing to carry out the CT scan when she first went to hospital and carried it out too late on the second admission. It was alleged Dr Mathuna was negligent by wrongly diagnosing her symptoms as pregnancy-related and failing to refer her to the hospital having regard to her history of repeated headaches.

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