Family facing £3m bill after case against consultant and hospital

 

The parents of a 14-year-old handicapped boy who lost his claim for damages against a hospital and a consultant are facing an estimated costs bill of £3 million following a decision of the Supreme Court yesterday.

The couple say that they cannot pay.

An action on behalf of Ian O'Mahony, of Beechwood Grove, Onslow Gardens, Commons Road, Cork, was dismissed by the High Court last year. Earlier this month, an appeal against the High Court decision was rejected by the Supreme Court and the issue of costs in both courts was left over.

Following submissions yesterday, the Supreme Court ordered that the O'Mahonys should pay the full costs of both the High Court and Supreme Court hearings. The High Court had decided that there should be no order for costs against the O'Mahonys.

The total costs bill for the hospital and the consultant is estimated at £3 million. It will be some time before the actual bill will be worked out and it remains to be seen if the defendants will press the claim.

The parents, John and Ann O'Mahony, fought the case on their son's behalf.

Outside the court yesterday, Mr O'Mahony said that he could not pay the bill. He is unemployed and on disability benefit, having previously worked as an ESB network technician. His wife has a part-time job two days a week.

Mr O'Mahony said that if he won the Lotto he would pay his own lawyers first. They had given their time and commitment without any payment.

The O'Mahonys brought their claim against the Bon Secours Hospital, Cork, where Ian was born on May 11th, 1987, and a consultant obstetrician, Mr David A. Corr, of Western Road, Cork, who attended Ian's birth at the hospital. Ian is severely physically and mentally handicapped.

Yesterday, the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Keane, said the normal principle that costs follow the event should apply in the present case. Clearly, there were many cases brought on behalf of minors which were "arguable" cases where there was a duty on the minor's "next friend" to bring an action. But did this mean that defendants in every case would be at a loss of their legal costs?

Mr Henry Hickey SC, for the O'Mahonys, said the High Court judge had found there was compelling evidence that the O'Mahonys had put forward a stronger than arguable case. The case was not one which had been taken frivolously.

Mr Murray McGrath SC, for the defence, said there were no exceptional circumstances justifying the costs being allowed to the O'Mahonys.

In a statement, Mrs O'Mahony, who was not in court, said she found it appalling that costs would be awarded against her as Ian's primary carer. She added: "I don't regret taking on this case, which has taken 13 years."

Mrs O'Mahony thanked her own legal team, who had given their services free in an attempt to ensure that a child such as Ian obtained justice.

Mr Michael O'Connell, solicitor for the O'Mahony's, commenting on the court's rejection of Ian's claim, said that many disquieting issues remained after the judgment. These would be apparent to anyone who looked at the submission on both sides and at the court's decision.