A record €32 million medical negligence compensation has been awarded to a nine-year-old boy, Benjamin Gillick, who suffered permanent brain damage after medics made a delayed diagnosis of infection following surgery when he was a baby.
It is the largest settlement in a case of this kind to be approved by the Irish courts. However, Benjamin’s parents, Miriam and Andrew Gillick, told the court that they believed the money was not a sufficient amount. They said: “It leaves us with a shortfall that will be imposed on ourselves or our children, or possibly our grandchildren.”
It brings to more than €32m the total amount of the award after an interim settlement of €7.4m three years ago.
Presiding Judge Justice Kevin Cross stressed that only a fraction of the money, less than €500,000 was compensation for the catastrophic injuries caused to Benjamin and that the majority of the award is for the cost of Benjamin’s complex treatment, educational and accommodation needs for the remainder of his life.
In approving a final settlement offer of €25m, following a €7.4m interim award made three years ago, he said “When the headlines come to be written it should be noted that no one is getting a bonanza”.
Justice Cross said that Benjamin would only have received around €450,000 in relation to general damages for the injuries he had suffered. The remainder of the money to be paid by the Children’s University Hospital at Temple Street will cover the costs of his future treatment.
The judge said the reason the figure was so high in this case was because “thankfully he has a higher life expectancy and would have to be cared for long after his parents have departed”. The judge said it was very difficult to predict what will happen in 60 years’ time.
The boy’s father, Andrew Gillick, spoke in Court of his concern that the money was insufficient due to rates of return on investment in England, now reside. He went on to say that had the case been decided in England, Benjamin’s award would have been in the order of €45m due to the costs of carers, therapies, aids and appliances, transport and schooling.
Benjamin, who is one of identical twin boys, was born prematurely in Dublin and later underwent a procedure at 11 months at Temple Street Children’s Hospital to drain fluid on the brain. A shunt was inserted but he later returned to hospital vomiting and unwell.
The court heard that a shunt infection is a known complication of the procedure and the cause of the negligence was that for up to three days this possibility was not investigated. The court was told that Benjamin suffers with cerebral palsy, is quadriplegic, and cannot communicate verbally.
Benjamin, of Knockmaroon Hill, Chapelizod, Dublin, but now living in London, had sued The Children’s University Hospital, Temple St, Dublin, in relation to his treatment in April 2011.