€120k settlement following action for injuries family claimed were sustained at workshop

The High Court has approved a settlement of €120k to a man who allegedly suffered injuries including unexplained bruises, blisters and burns while he attended at a workshop run by the Brothers of Charity.

The award was made in favour of 38 year old Seamus Vaughan, who the High Court heard has been profoundly disabled since he was a teenager, who sued over an alleged gross lack of care he received while he attended a Brothers of Charity Workshop at Lacey’s Cross, Newcastle West Co Limerick.

Seamus’s personal injuries action, taken on his behalf by his father Mr Patrick Vaughan, was against the Brothers of Charity Services Limerick Ltd and the Health Services Executive.

Seamus Vaughan (in wheelchair) pictured leaving the Four Courts today with his parents, Patrick and Freida, after a High Court action. Picture: Collins Courts

The claims were denied, and the settlement was made without admission of liability except in relation to one incident in 2011.

The settlement of €120,000 plus costs was approved by Mr Justice Anthony Barr.

The Judge said after careful consideration he had "no hesitation" in approving the sum after Seamus’s mother Mrs Freda Vaughan told the court the family was not happy with the amount offered.

She said there was something "odd" about her son’s injuries.

She told the court the family had been very upset about what happened to Seamus and felt they had been badly treated.

Seamus, she said, would become violent on his return home from the workshop. It was so bad that the couples daughter had to leave the home for a period, she added.

Seamus she said he regressed while he attended at the workshop but was so happy and had improved since he moved to a new facility in 2011 run by Enable Ireland.

In his ruling the Judge said there was "a significant difficulties" in proving liability in the case, including that Seamus could not give evidence and there were no witness to the alleged incidents complained about.

There was no guarantee that at a full trial Seamus’s claim would be successful or that the award would be any more than the defendants had offered the Judge said.

Outlining the claim Frank Callanan SC for Seamus, from Morenane, Askeaton, Co Limerick, said that the liability had been admitted by the defendants in regards to one incident when he fell at the workshop in February 2011, and lost two teeth.

However all other claims were denied.

Counsel, who appeared with Eugene Gleeson SC and Peter Shanley Bl, said Seamus suffers from beta ketothiolase deficiency a condition where his body is unable to break down proteins.

This has resulted in Seamus suffering physical and cognitive injuries. and he now requires the use of a wheelchair, is none verbal and he requires a high degree of care for several years and is on a special diet.

Counsel said it was Seamus’s case that the defendants were in breach of their duty of care and had been negligent while he was in their care. He was referred to the workshop by the HSE

The claim related to incidents including a number in 2006 and 2007 when his family noticed bruising, burns and blisters on Seamus’s right hand.

Doctors treating Seamus, counsel said, were unable to explain his injuries.

Seamus is unable to open his hand, yet the blisters and burns were on areas including his palms and the base of his thumb.

Medics suggested Seamus’s injuries might have been caused by him being exposed to a hot object.

He was also regularly returning home from the workshop soiled, counsel said.

Seamus fell at the workshop on several occasions. He had collapsed in 2009 he collapsed at the workshop and a doctor told them this was due to a lack of food and drink.

On another occasions Seamus had come home with a swollen cheekbone.

Counsel said the family were not satisfied with an investigation carried out by the defendants, which rejected claims of negligence, following their complaints about Seamus’s care.

It was also alleged that the defendants failed to implement an overall care plan or risk assessment for Seamus as well other recommendations concerning his care.

Things did improve in 2009 when a particular person employed at the workshop started working with Seamus.

Eventually counsel said Seamus was moved to Enable Ireland, where his family say he has come on leaps and bounds.

In their defence the defendants had denied there was a gross lack of care or victimisation of Seamus. They argued that Seamus was afforded an appropriate level of supervision at the workshop.

It was also claimed that if he did trip and fall as claimed there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it.

The defendants said steps were taken in an accordance with the findings of an investigation into complaints from Seamus’s family. At all times reasonable and appropriate steps for Seamus’s safety and care were taken.

Seamus when he attended at the facility had a moderate level of disability and at that time was walking independently.

Following the settlement the family’s solicitor Mr Ronan Hynes said that family were happy that the court case had ended and felt vindicated with the outcome.

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