Boy, 9, brain damaged at birth wins €15m and apology for alleged medical negligence

Padraig and Annette Leane. Pic: Collins

By Ann O'Loughlin

A nine-year-old Kerry boy who suffered brain damage at birth has settled his High Court action for €15m.

An apology to Jack Leane from Killarney, Co Kerry, was also read to the court by lawyers for Cork University Hospital.

"We do not underestimate the impact this has had on you and your family and we are truly sorry," the statement said.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross today approved a €15m settlement for the boy who was brain damaged at birth due to alleged medical negligence.

Jack's counsel Oonah McCrann SC said that fatal delay led to catastrophic injuries to the boy who was left with cerebral palsy, wheelchair bound, requiring tube feeding as well as oral feeding. It had left him with eipilepsy causing daily seizures, requiring frequent suctioning and he also has visual and cognitive impairment.

Jack Leane, through his mother Annette Leane, Lawlor's Cross, Killarney, Co Kerry had sued Cork University Hospital (CUH), and the HSE over his care and treatment before and during his birth at CUH on August 11, 2008.

Liability was admitted in February last year.

In the action, it was claimed, among other things, there was failure to exercise due and proper care, skill and judgment in and about the clinical history taking, examination and management of the baby and his mother from her admission to CUH on the morning of August 11 until he was delivered just before 9pm that night.

There was a failure to notice or heed the fact that a cardio-tocograph (CTG) trace showed variable decelerations in the base line foetal heart rate for hours prior to birth, it was claimed.

There was a failure to heed the fact that the CTG trace was pathological and a failure to follow standard professional practice at that stage and perform foetal scalp blood sampling, it was alleged.

Ms McCrann SC said Jack requires 24-hour nursing care which has mostly been provided since his birth by his parents Padraig and Annette. His mother had given up work to look after him.

Annette Leane told the court Jack was very ill in his first five years which were "very bumpy" but he is well now and is a very happy boy who likes being out in the fresh air.

"He knows us all and when we walk in the door today he will know it is mom and dad.

"He he knows his three brothers and his grandparents and his carers".

He loved going to school and travelling home on the bus in the evening, she said.

There had been very difficult times no least because community services in Kerry were "almost non-existent", she said.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross wished Jack and the family well for the future. He said it was a very good settlement and he ordered to payout for special damages of €720,000 through the parents' solicitors, Cantillons, with the remainder to be paid into an account. There will also be a wardship application, the court was told.

In a statement afterwards read by Ms Leane, she said what happened to Jack should never have happened. She said August 11, 2008 was suposed to be the happiest day of their lives - the day their first-born was to arrive in to the world.

Jack Leane. Pic: Collins

While it was a significant settlement which would give them peace of mind and provide for Jack's future, the focus should not be on the size of the award but on asking "that someone look and ask how can we prevent this happening to any other baby".

Ms Leane also said she wanted to draw attention to the fact it took the HSE eight years to admit liability.

"The stress and cost of this action is a huge strain that not all families can sustain or even afford to start to investigate", she said.

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