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Woman Sues Mater Hospital in Hospital Fall Claim

A woman has made a claim against the Mater Hospital in a hospital fall claim following an incident in which she fractured her spine.

In April 2015, the woman-who has remained anonymous-attended the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin for a routine gastroscopy. The procedure was deemed a success, and she was taken to her ward to recuperate from the procedure. She was due to leave the hospital later that day. Nurses initially tended to her as she started to come out of the general anaesthetic. However, while she was still recovering from the anaesthetic’s effects, her nurses left, and she was left alone on the recovery unit. Still disoriented from the procedure, the woman attempted to get out of bed. Doing so, she fell, fracturing her spine due to the harsh impact on the floor.

Due to the severity of her injuries, the woman spent a further month at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. Eventually, she was transferred to the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf to receive specialist treatment for her fractured spine. She remained at the Clontarf hospital for a further three months undergoing physiotherapy before being removed by her daughter to be cared for at home.

The woman, who prior to her fall had lived an independent life, now requires full-time care. Her daughter is now responsible for assisting her in simple daily tasks. The woman has to wear a lumbar brace at all times and uses a Zimmer frame for walking. Due to the circumstances surrounding her injury, the woman sought legal counsel. She then made a hospital fall injury claim against the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, alleging that the hospital had failed to adhere to its own falls prevention policy.

The hospital denied liability for her injuries, so the case was brought to the Circuit Civil Court. It was heard by Judge James O´Donohoe. The judge was informed that the due to injury in the hospital fall the woman was “no longer the woman she previously was”. He was also told that the woman had required hospital treatment previously following a fall at her home in November 2014, and the hospital should have reasonably been aware of this and monitored her closely.

Judge O´Donohoe heard evidence from the recovery unit´s Head of Nursing, but said “what speaks volumes to this court is that the ward nurse who attended the plaintiff was not called to give evidence.” The judge also accepted the evident of an expert witness who testified the Mater Hospital had failed to comply with its standard falls prevention policy.

After considering all of the evidence at hand, the judge found in favour of the injured woman. Judge O´Donohoe said the gastroscopy had a good outcome but tragically things changed for the worse. Initially awarding the woman €58,500 in settlement of her hospital fall injury claim, the judge granted a stay pending a possible appeal on the proviso a partial settlement of €30,000 was paid immediately.

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