€8.5m final payout for boy’s birth injury

Dr Fiona Murphy and husband Mark Dunne speak to the media on leaving court yesterday after their son Eoin received a final settlement of€8.5m related to injuries he sustained in the minutes following his birth. Picture: Courtpix

A 12-year-old boy who suffered catastrophic injuries in the minutes after his birth at the Coombe Women’s Hospital in Dublin has settled his High Court damages action with a final payment of €8.5m.

The sum approved by the High Court yesterday brings the total amount received by Eoin Dunne to €11.4m — two years ago he received an interim settlement payout of €2.9m.

The High Court had previously ruled the hospital was liable for the injuries sustained by Eoin Dunne, Malahide, Co Dublin, in July 2002.

Had Eoin been effectively ventilated nine minutes after birth rather than at 17 minutes, he would probably not have suffered his devastating injuries, the court found.

The delay was unacceptable and the hospital was negligent in failing to ensure the child received the type of intubation and ventilation “mandated in the first 10 minutes of his life”, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said at the time.

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Eoin has severe dyskinetic cerebral palsy, cannot walk or speak, and is totally dependent on others for all his needs.

In his action against the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, it was claimed Eoin suffered his injuries due to delays by the hospital in resuscitating him in the minutes after his birth.

The case ran for 43 days 1n 2012, extending over the course of about a year. It was adjourned mid-hearing as a result of the boy becoming ill and the hospital raising questions whether that illness might be relevant to the issue of causation of his injuries.

The legal costs of the action itself, brought on Eoin’s behalf by his mother, Dr Fiona Murphy, an anaesthetist, could be as high as €2m.

Outside court yesterday, Dr Murphy and Eoin’s father Mark Dunne said they were relieved the legal action was finally at an end. “It has been extremely stressful. We can now get on with our lives,” said Dr Murphy, a mother of five.

She said the case had been fought every step of the way and she believed this was unnecessary as the case could have been settled years ago.

Despite her medical background, Dr Murphy said she was “a mother first” and had found the whole legal process extremely stressful. Had she known in advance what it would be like, she may not have taken the case, but yesterday she said she was glad she did and was relieved it was over.

Denis McCullough, counsel for Eoin, said this final payment determines the case once and for all.

Under the terms of settlement, it has been agreed that if there are any changes to the real rate of return — as a result of the determination of the Court of Appeal in another test case involving a child who was catastrophically injured at birth — then the €8.5m can be recalculated and adjusted upwards.

Approving the final settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross wished the Dunne family well.

In her judgment on liability, Ms Justice Irvine found that Eoin’s injuries were caused as a result of suffering a period of near total acute hypoxic ischaemia which began about two or three minutes before his birth and ended when his heartbeat was restored about 20 minutes later, following resuscitation.

If the hospital had acted with reasonable care for Eoin’s welfare, there was no reason why he should not have been effectively ventilated by the time he was nine minutes old, she found. Had that occurred, he would not have gone on to develop the injuries.

Eoin was born in moderate condition at 6.35am on July 30, 2002, and, at the time of his birth, was not suffering from any inherent defect or genetic abnormality, as the hospital, among various claims, had alleged, the judge found.

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