Court Approves Settlement of Compensation for the Misdiagnosis of Meningitis

The High Court has approved a €5.6 settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis in favour of a teenage girl from Ballinalough, County Cork.

On 10th July 2005, the girl´s parents phoned the South Doc out of hours medical service in Cork to express concerns about their daughter´s wellbeing. The girl – who was only three years of age at the time – was suffering from nausea, diarrhoea, drowsiness and a high temperature. She had also developed a rash on her stomach.

Having been told to bring her to the medical centre, the family arrived at 5:00am and were seen by Dr Leon Britz. Dr Britz diagnosed the girl had tonsillitis and told the family to go home. However, the girl´s condition got worse and – at 9:30am – they returned to the medical centre, where the girl was examined by a different doctor. On this occasion the correct diagnosis of meningitis was made.

The girl was taken to Cork University Hospital, where antibiotics were administered, and then transferred to Our Lady´s Children´s Hospital. At the Dublin Hospital she had both legs amputated below the knee, and subsequently medical records show she underwent 132 surgeries over the next twelve years to attend to health issues that could have been avoided had the correct diagnosis been made and antibiotics administered sooner.

Through her mother, the girl claimed compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis against Dr Britz and South West Doctors on Call Ltd. It was alleged in the claim for compensation that the misdiagnosis of meningitis as tonsillitis constituted medical negligence on behalf of Dr Britz and that South West Doctors on Call Ltd was vicariously liable for the “profound consequences” of the misdiagnosis.

The defendants admitted liability and a settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis amounting to €5.6 million was negotiated. As the claim had been made on behalf of a minor, the negotiated settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the girl´s best interests, and the approval hearing took place recently at the High Court before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

At the hearing, Judge Cross was told about the timeline of the family´s visits to the South Doc medical centre in July 2005 and the “profound consequences” that had resulted due to the doctor´s negligence. The judge approved the settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis – praising the girl´s parents for the efforts they had made to care for her and noting that the outcome could have been far worse.