A judge has approved a settlement of compensation of €9 million the birth injury case of a tetraplegic girl.
Alex Butler was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005. Due to undiagnosed complications with her birth, she was born “blue and lifeless”. As the doctor in charge of Alex’s birth-who was a stand-in for her mother’s regular obstetrician-did not diagnosed these complications despite obvious signs, there was a delay of ten minutes in her delivery.
Alex was started of oxygen in the womb due to the delay. She sustained severe brain damage, and has been left disabled for life. Despite this, Alex was described as a child with a“bright personality with a huge intelligence” in court. She was later diagnosed as tetraplegic, and she relies on a wheelchair for movement. She will be dependant upon 24 hour care for the rest of her life.
Her parents sought legal counsel. Acting on behalf of her daughter, Sonya Butler made a claim for Alex’s birth injuries against the Health Service Executive and Waterford Regional Hospital. The defendants acknowledged liability for Alex’s injuries. Negotiations began between the two legal teams, and an interim settlement of compensation was offered in 2013. It was hoped that a structured settlement of periodic payments could be introduced in Ireland so a lump sum would not have to be paid. The case was adjourned for two years for such a system to be created.
However, the government has failed to implement such legislation required for such a periodic settlement. As such, the family returned to the High Court for approval of a lump sum. The case was heard by Mr Justice Anthony Barr.
A representative of Waterford Regional Hospital read an apology to Alex and her family, expressing their regret and grief over Alex’s conditions. However, after this the parties could not agree as to how much compensation Alex was entitled to due to her severe disabilities.
The parties continued to negotiate the settlement for over a fortnight after the initial hearing. Eventually, an agreement was reached, resulting in a €9 million lump sum being offered to the family. As the case was in regards to a minor, a judge had to approve the settlement to ensure it was in her best interests. Judge Barr in the High Court approved the settlement, claiming that the settlement was both reasonable and fair.
Alex’s parents were shocked and disappointed at the protracted negotiations. Sonya spoke to the press, openly criticising the State Claims Agency when speaking with reporters after the announcement of the settlement: “They fought tooth and nail. They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.”