An interim settlement of compensation has been approved by a High Court judge for a ten year-old boy who sustained severe injuries at his birth.
On the 30th September 2004, Luke Beirne was born at the Midlands Regional Hospital. However, Luke – who was delivered eleven days after his due date – was deprived of oxygen in utero due to alleged medical negligence at his birth. This caused him to sustain severe brain damage, and he now lives with cerebral palsy.
Margaret, Luke’s mother, has alleged that during her labour the midwives were “chatting in the corridor”, neglecting to monitor her condition. Additionally, she claimed that the theatre’s door was locked, causing a delay in Luke’s delivery. As well as suffering from cerebral palsy, Luke has asthma and will require surgery as he grows to correct the tightening of his muscles.
Acting on Luke’s behalf, Margaret sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for birth negligence against the Health Service Executive and Dr David Mortell, he consultant obstetrician. In the claim she alleges that the latter did not discuss the risks of a vaginal birth for her second child, given that her first baby was delivered via a Caesarean Section three years before Luke.
Both accused parties denied that they were liable for Luke’s injuries, though they released statements that expressed their sorrow for Luke’s injuries and their consequences. However, they offered Margaret an interim settlement of compensation, made without an admission of liability.
Though dissatisfied with the outcome of the case, Margaret decided to follow the advice of her solicitor and accept the interim settlement. The case proceeded to the High Court, where Margaret informed Mr Justice Michael Morality that she trusted that the court would act in Luke’s best interest.
However, the judge was also told of the family’s concern that the offer of interim compensation – worth €800,000 – would not be enough to pay for Luke’s care. The defence told him that, should he decide the case needed a full trial, that they would testify that everything possible had been done to ensure Luke’s wellbeing.
Judge Moriarty commented that Margaret’s solicitors had engaged in “very hard bargaining” to secure the settlement offer, and that it was for Luke’s interest that he decided the case should not go to full trial. He proceeded to approve the compensation settlement and adjourned the case such that an assessment of damages can be conducted.