Settlements totalling more than €4.5 million have been approved by the High Court in three cases over the administration of a swine flu vaccine which allegedly caused a sleep disorder.
The cases involve two people under the age of 18 and an adult man who cannot be identified by court order. The cases were against the Minister for Health, the HSE, and Glaxosmithkline Biologicals SA (GSK) – the producer of swine flu vaccine Pandemrix.
GSK was previously given an indemnity by the State concerning any adverse reactions to the vaccine. It was claimed in all three cases that the plaintiffs developed narcolepsy.
The settlements arose out of general terms agreed in a groundbreaking settlement last year which paved the way for the resolution of 80 cases over the Pandemrix vaccine.
In the first case, Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan approved a settlement of €1 million for a teenage boy who received Pandemrix when he was six and subsequently developed moderate to severe narcolepsy.
In the second case, involving another teenage boy, the judge approved a settlement of €1.75 million after his counsel Jonathan Kilfeather SC said there was a complicating factor because the child had also been diagnosed with autism which meant that his life in the future will be very different.
In the third case, Ms Justice O'Regan approved a €1.8 million settlement for a man in his 20s who received the vaccine in 2009. He was also diagnosed as suffering from a mental disorder when doing his Junior Certificate which meant he required continuing support and was unlikely to get employment.
His lawyers had recommended an application for wardship be made to the president of the High Court, which would mean the settlement would be managed for his benefit.
This was because his treating doctor said his condition affects his ability to perform independently and he is a very vulnerable young man with complex medical needs.
His mother, who took the case on his behalf, told the court via remote link she and her family had concerns that if her son went into wardship that this would be a further loss of control over his life. He had a very supportive wider family and his sister was prepared to manage the settlement along with him if he was not taken into wardship, she said.
Ms Justice O’Regan said the issue of wardship will be dealt with by the court president or her appointed nominee only after a full inquiry. It will not be a snap decision and the man and his mother’s feelings will be taken into account before any decision is made, she said.
The judge said she felt constrained by his doctor’s views and it was in his interests that she transfer the matter to the president’s list for an inquiry into the possibility of wardship.