Monthly Archives: November 2015

Widow Compensated for Husband’s Misdiagnosed Meningitis

A woman, whose husband died after his meningitis was misdiagnosed for constipation, is to be compensated for his death following a hearing.

When Philip Morrissey, aged thirty-nine from Kilkenny, visited his GP on the 26th May 2010, he was presenting with a high temperature, a headache and a pain in his ear. The doctor presently referred him to the Accident and Emergency Department of Kilkenny’s St Luke’s Hospital, where he was admitted to the hospital with a high pulse and an increasing intolerance to light.

Many hours after Mr Morrissey was taken into care, Mrs Gail Morrissey raised her concerns with the attending staff that her husband was drowsy and disoriented. However, she was informed by the staff that her husband was suffering from constipation. The next morning, Mr Morrissey was found in his bed, having suffered a cardiac arrest during the night. A later investigation discovered that the heart attack was caused by streptococcal pneumonia meningitis.

Mrs Morrissey sought legal counsel, and proceeded to make a claim against the HSE for her husband’s misdiagnosis. In her claim, she stated that no doctor had attended to her husband since the late afternoon before his death, and that the staff that had seen him earlier on did not accurately diagnose his condition, failing to consider that his symptoms were indicative of meningitis.

An investigation into the circumstances of Mr Morrissey’s death ensued, and after the HSE admitted liability, the parties began to negotiate a compensation settlement. A figure of €455,000 was agreed upon by the parties, though due to the nature of Mr Morrissey’s death, the case had to proceed to the High Court before the settlement could be awarded. There, it was overseen by Mr Justice Michael Hanna.

In the court, details of Mr Morrissey’s illness and subsequent death were given, and a statement was read to the Morrissey family by a representative of the HSE. Judge Hanna proceeded to approve the compensation settlement, adding that it was a “huge tragedy” for the family, and while the settlement would never be a compensation for Mr Morrissey’s loss, it was the best that could be achieved by the law.

Court of Appeals Upholds Compensation Settlement for Birth Injuries

Dublin’s High Court have upheld a multi-million settlement of compensation for cerebral palsy due to birth injuries after an appeal was made concerning its high value, though the case may still proceed to the Supreme Court for resolution. 

Gill Russell, from Aghada in County Cork, was born on the 12th July 2006 in the Erinville Hospital. However, he was born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy after what has been described as a “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery. Karen, Gill’s mother, made a claim for birth injuries due to medical negligence compensation against the hospital and the Health Service Executive. Liability was admitted by the HSE, and an interim settlement was awarded by the High Court in Dublin. 

It was not until December 2014 that a final award of €13.5 million was approved by the Mr Judge Kevin Cross in the High Court, which was the largest award ever made by the court for a cerebral palsy claim. The settlement was appealed by the HSE, who argued that Judge Cross had used too low a rate of interest to calculate the return investment of the lump sum. 

The case was heard earlier this month at the Court of Appeals, where a panel consisting of three judges, upheld the settlement of compensation. The judges argued that using a higher rate of interest – which the HSE argues is normal for the court – would result in a severely disabled person taking “unjust and unacceptable risks” by investing their lump sum to safeguard their financial security.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine – one of the three judges on the panel – commented that it was not the purpose of the courts to decide how a claimant was going to invest their award when determining its value. The judge also commented that, had the government succeeded in passing legislation that would allow structured, periodic payments, the HSE would not be in this situation. 

However, despite the Appeals Court’s ruling, the case is unlikely to be resolved, The State Claims Agency have warned that the case could set a precedent that could cost the insurance industry up to €10 billion over the next ten years, The HSE have also indicated that they will likely take the case to the Supreme Court.