A girl who suffers from quadriparetic cerebral palsy due to a doctor’s medical negligence-his failure to refer her mother to a specialist when needed-has been awarded a lump sum of compensation.
In October 2004, Catherine Sheehan was pregnant with her daughter and visited her doctor to have a pre-birth blood test. The test results showed that Catherine’s blood antibody levels had undergone an “alarming increase”. In spite of these worrying results, Dr David Corr – her obstetrician – did not refer her to a specialist to seek further treatment. One month later, in November, her daughter Isabelle was born at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital in Cork. It was clear at the time of her birth that she was unhealthy, and further medical investigation diagnosed her with sever spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy.
Isabelle-now eleven years old-attends a Gaelscoil near Mallow, Co. Cork, where she lives. She was described as “bright and intelligent” in court, in spite of having difficulties communicating with others. A machine was specially made to help her to walk. She will be reliant on twenty-four hour care for the rest of her life.
Isabelle’s mother sought legal advice to seek compensation for her daughter’s injuries. Dr Corr admitted liability for Isabelle’s condition after her mother made a claim against him for his failure to refer her to a specialist. Whilst speaking at a hearing to award an interim settlement of compensation in 2011, he told the court that he “very much regrets the outcome in relation to Isabelle´s birth”.
The family returned to court in October 2013 to receive second interim settlement of compensation. At this hearing, Catherine requested that they ceased to receive the interim settlements and instead received a lump sum. An assessment had to be carried out for several weeks prior to each settlement to ensure that a suitable value was awarded, but Catherine told the court that these disputed her daughter’s attempts to live a normal life.
The court granted the request, and the case went to the High Court to be heard by Mr Justice Peter Kelly. The final lump sum settlement was agreed to be €9 million. Judge Kelly, who is also President of the High Court, said that it was a fair and reasonable settlement, and it was understandable why Catherine made the request. He also paid tribute to Isabelle’s parents, saying that Isabelle’s progress was so good because of her parents’ “truly remarkable” love, care and dedication.