Woman reaches €5 million settlement over alleged birth injuries

Case involving 45 year old believed to be one of oldest of type to come before the courts

A 45-year-old woman who claimed she suffered brain damage around the time of her birth has agreed a €5 million settlement of her High Court action.

Claire Sullivan’s settlement against the HSE is without an admission of liability and was reached after the case had been at hearing for four days before the High Court.

Ms Sullivan was born in an ambulance that had to pull to the side of the road as she was being transferred from a district hospital in Tipperary to a general hospital.

Her counsel Patrick Treacy SC, instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitors, told the court it was their case that Ms Sullivan suffered a traumatic birth because of the ongoing continued blood loss of her mother which had started in her kitchen the day before.


He said it was their case that Ms Sullivan suffered a chronic partial asphyxia because of her mother’s blood loss over time and she suffered a brain injury. She also has epilepsy.

Ms Sullivan from Carrick on Suir, Co Tipperary, had, through her mother Caroline Sullivan, sued the HSE over the care provided around the time of her birth in 1977.

It was claimed there was a failure to recognise that the blood loss sustained by Caroline Sullivan prior to attending the district hospital, St Brigid’s Hospital, Carrick on Suir, and failure to transfer the mother to another hospital in a timely manner.

It was further claimed that Claire Sullivan’s injuries could and should have been avoided if reasonable care and skill had been exercised.

The claims were denied.

Counsel said it was a complex case that referred to events almost 45 years ago. It is believed hers is the oldest such birth action alleging negligence and breach of duty to ever come before the courts.

He said that Caroline Sullivan, who already had three children, was at home when she had a sudden gush of blood down her legs on May 8th 1977. She was admitted to St Brigid’s District Hospital in Carrick on Suir at 1pm.

He said it was their case that she should have been transferred immediately to St Joseph’s Hospital in Clonmel where a caesarean section would have been performed.

The mother was cold and shivering - which could indicate shock from blood loss - when she was sitting in St Brigid’s Hospital, he said.

Mr Treacy said when Caroline Sullivan told the midwife of the ongoing trickle of blood the midwife said: “ For God’s sake you already have had three children”. Counsel said the mother did not complain any further.

Counsel said it was not communicated to Caroline Sullivan that she had a haemorrhage at home and had been haemorrhaging during her time in St Brigid’s Hospital.

Shortly before 4am the mother rang the bell and the nurse found her in labour. A decision was made to transfer to St Joseph’s Hospital, but five miles before Clonmel the ambulance had to pull into the side of the road and Claire Sullivan was born.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Michael Hanna acknowledged the care, love and affection given to Claire Sullivan by her family and he said it has eased what has been a difficult life for her.