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Woman with cerebral palsy who sued hospital over birth circumstances settles for €850k

Paula Corcoran from Sligo town, the court heard, has to use a wheelchair, cannot speak and needs full-time care
Stock photo

Stock photo

Tim HealyIndependent.ie

A 46-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who sued over the circumstances of her birth at Galway Regional Hospital has settled a High Court action for €850,000.

Paula Corcoran from Sligo town, the court heard, has to use a wheelchair, cannot speak and needs full-time care.

The settlement against the HSE is without an admission of liability.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Garrett Simons noted the exceptional care Ms Corcoran's family had given her throughout the years.

“They have made an excellent contribution. She is very, very lucky,” the judge said.

Alistair Rutherdale BL, instructed by solicitor David O’Malley, told the court that proceedings were brought in the case in 2014, when Ms Corcoran was 38.

The case was unusual in that it refers to circumstances 46 years ago and is regarded as the first ever case alleging medical negligence and dealing with events over 40 years ago.

It was claimed her mother, Emily Corcoran, was admitted to the hospital on April 7, 1976 after she was advised the baby was presenting in an abnormal position.

Overnight, she went into labour and was transferred to the labour ward on April 8. Paula Corcoran was delivered by emergency caesarean section later but required resuscitation.

Mr Justice Simons said it was the Corcoran case that the position the baby was lying in before birth should had been given particular attention. There allegedly should have been one-to-one monitoring as well as earlier intervention.

The judge said the case had to be viewed from the medical practice standards of the time. He said the defence were denying all claims and contended that the birth was carefully monitored and proper due care and attention was given to the mother and baby.

The HSE had also raised the issue of the delay in bringing the proceedings. An application to strike out the case on the grounds of delay had been part heard by the courts.

The judge said the €850,00 settlement figure represented half the notional full value of the case. Referring to the tragic circumstances of the case and the risk in relation to liability, the judge said it was a very fair settlement

It was also a case where recollection would be of particular importance, he said.

Ms Corcoran, through her late father Malachy Corcoran, had sued the HSE over the circumstances and management of her birth at Galway Regional, which is now known as University College Hospital Galway, on April 8, 1976.

It was claimed there was a failure, upon the admission of Emily Corcoran to the hospital, to adopt a clear plan for active or expectant management. It was further contended there was a failure to maintain vigilant supervision through labour.

There was also an alleged failure, when labour started spontaneously, to carefully assess and reassess the situation.

All the claims were denied.


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