Emma Mhic Mhathúna came to the Four Courts a victor not a victim.
Wearing a rich red, off-the-shoulder, full-length gown picked out by her sons for the occasion, the Kerry woman looked as if she was dressed for the red carpet.
It was a very proud moment for the mother of five, who has terminal cancer, as she secured a settlement of €7.5m — all of which is to be kept in court for the benefit of her daughter and four sons, who range in age from two to 15 years old.
The 37-year-old, along with her children, had sued the HSE and US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Incorporated which yesterday, the court heard, admitted liability.
The HSE admitted liability relating to failing to disclose the findings of cervical cancer, while Quest Diagnostics admitted misreading two of Ms Mhic Mhathúna’s cervical smear slides in 2010 and 2013, which incorrectly came back as “normal”.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016. The court heard she got excellent care, but at the end of April this year, she was told her cancer has recurred and is now terminal.
In court, she called the €7.5m “an astronomical sum”, but she reminded those listening to the approval of the settlement of her case that her children were very clear that money does not compensate for the loss of their mother.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who approved the settlement, said in relation to her five children: “I know they give you great strength and you give them great strength.”
She said her sons had picked out the striking red fishtail dress she wore to court.
“The dress shows confidence,” she said. “Whether I am dying or not, justice is the priority here. I was not going to come into court a victim. I came in a victor.
Many stopped to stare as she spoke a few words on the steps of the Four Courts.
Standing with her solicitor Cian O’Carroll, Ms Mhic Mhathúna said she is very proud of herself to have achieved the settlement and said from the outset she was determined to fight and get justice for her children.
The €7.5m, she said represents the amount of damage done to them.
“It was for them I did this,” she said.
She said they brought the case in the High Court and come out with a substantial amount of money.
“I am not surprised it settled before it went to court,” said Ms Mhic Mhathúna. “I am a very strong character and they realised what they were up against.”
She said the admission of liability is important to her and for all women.
“They apologised to me specifically and I was very happy with the fact that Quest Diagnostics apologised.
“It would make sense to check, check, and recheck the smear test rather than hand out the big cheque.”
She laughed that it sounds a bit like a song. She said she is delighted to be going home to her children and put the legal battle behind her.
She emphasised that her case demonstrates the power of standing up for yourself.
This is the second case to settle since the Cervical Check controversy arose when Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled her action over alleged delays for €2.5m. Earlier this month, another case involving a woman suing over alleged delays relating to CervicalCheck smears was settled on a confidential basis. The court was told in relation to that case that the woman could succumb at any moment.
There is still another case before the courts relating to cervical smears and is listed for hearing in July.
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