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Judge Rules that Case Against HSE for Wrongful Death Should Proceed to Court

A High Court judge has ruled that a case made against the HSE for a wrongful death should proceed to a full court case, in spite of the HSE’s claim that the claim was made outside of the period of the Statute of Limitations.

In 2001, Dolores Hewitt was declared healthy after battling with breast cancer for several years. She regularly returned to Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co. Meath to undergo monitoring. In 2007, at one of these routine checkups, two cancerous legions were discovered on her liver.

The scan results were not immediately acted upon by medical staff at the hospital. Dolores only met with a surgeon five months after the scans were taken to discuss the results. Dolores´ conversation with the surgeon prompted further ultrasound scans to be conducted, and further lesions were discovered on Dolores´ liver. Dolores started undergoing treatment for cancer once again. However, due to the failure of medical staff to act promptly to the results of the scan, the condition had progressed too far to respond to the treatment. Dolores died in June 2010.

Dolores’ widower, Joseph, sought legal counsel. He made a claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results against Our Lady´s Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). He alleged in his action that, had Our Lady´s Hospital acted on Dolores´ scan results within a reasonable period of time in February 2007,  her wrongful death would have been avoided.

Our Lady´s Hospital and the HSE contested the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results. They argued that Joseph´s allegations were founded on Dolores´ treatment in 2007, and that his claim for hospital negligence made in 2012 was outside the two-year period Statute of Limitations. This regulation on the time period in which you are allowed to make a personal injury claim was established by the Civil Liability Act of 1961.

The HSE applied to the courts for the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results to be dismissed. Joseph´s legal team advised him to oppose the application. Ms Justice Marie Baker heard the case for dismissal at the High Court.

Ms Justice Marie Baker agreed with the HSE´s argument that the time period had expired for claiming compensation for hospital negligence that allegedly occurred in 2007. However, the judge said that Joseph´s the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results, related to the death of his wife in June 2010, and therefore his January 2012 claim was still within the period of time allowed by the Statute of Limitations.

She dismissed the HSE’s case, and wished Joseph well in future court proceedings.

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