Disabled boy (6) wins £2.7m damages


A six-year-old boy, described by a High Court judge as "among the most profoundly handicapped" he had seen, was yesterday awarded £2.7 million damages and costs for alleged negligence in the circumstances of his birth at University College Hospital, Galway.

The action, by Lorcan Meehan, suing by his father, Mr John Meehan, Coldwold, Craughwell, Co Galway, was against the Western Health Board, stated to be responsible for University College Hospital, Galway, where Lorcan was born; and a representative of the late Dr John Hannah, who was a registrar attached to the hospital at the time of the birth.

Yesterday's award is believed to be the second-highest in a case of its kind. In November 1999, the High Court approved a settlement of £3.25 million in favour of a boy who has cerebral palsy and is profoundly disabled.

That award, without admission of liability, went to Seoirse Lawton, now 14, who sued by his mother, Mrs Alice Lawton, of Knockaun, Newtown, Tramore, Co Waterford. Seoirse sued Airmount Maternity Hospital, Waterford, where he was born on August 3rd, 1986, and a consultant obstetrician.

Most of the £2.7 million damages for Lorcan is for his past and future care. Some £250,000 of the award made by Mr Justice Johnson is for "pain and suffering", and the greater part of the remainder is for his general care in the past and for the rest of his life. The parents plan to build a new home in Galway city to accommodate Lorcan's needs. They intend to keep Lorcan at home but he will have to have long-term nursing care.

The action opened on November 11th and continued intermittently for over 16 days. On the seventh day, liability was admitted but the case continued in respect of damages only.

On behalf of Lorcan, it was claimed there was a failure by the defendants or their servants or agents to exercise proper control for him in connection with his delivery and medical treatment. The judge said Lorcan was one of the most profoundly handicapped cases he had seen in the courts. Mr Denis McCullough SC, for Lorcan, said he had very severe epilepsy which was impossible to control. He also has profound developmental difficulties.

Asked if he was bitter over what happened, Mr Meehan said it was not in his nature to be bitter. "Something happens and you accept it and move on," he added. They were happy with the figure awarded.

Mr Meehan said the handicapped had nobody to speak for them. He thanked the many people who had helped Lorcan, including the Brothers of Charity, Galway, and local schools. Lorcan attends Rosedale school in Galway most days.

Outside the court, the boy's mother, Mrs Noreen Meehan, said: "Lorcan's life was stolen from him the day he was born. He will never be able to run, laugh or play. It is a tragedy that should never have happened."

She added: "Initially, when we asked the doctors in UCHG what had happened, we were fobbed off by them. We did not realise we had a case until we contacted our solicitor, Michael Boylan, to whom we are extremely grateful."