Boy seeks payout for birth injuries

A six-year-old Cork boy who can only communicate by moving his eyes has brought a High Court action for damages relating to the injuries he suffered at birth.

Gill Russell cannot walk, suffers from dyskinetic cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair.

His mother, Karen Russell, told the High Court yesterday her son is “a smart kid who is locked in”. He is in junior infants in a mainstream school and learns with the aid of a special computer.

Gill Russell has sued the HSE through his mother, of Kilteskin, Aghada, Co Cork, as a result of care during his birth at Erinville Hospital, Cork, on Jul 12, 2006.

Liability is admitted in the case, which is before the court for assessment of damages only. Mr Justice Michael Moriarty was told this aspect of the case will take about four weeks.

It is claimed Gill was born at 8.36am after an allegedly prolonged and chaotic delivery. His head was born with an assisted vacuum and it took a documented 12 minutes to deliver the shoulder. He had a severe shoulder dystocia and eventually, after his mother had a symphsiotomy, he was born. He was transferred to Cork University Hospital and was not allowed home for two months.

Opening the case, Liam Reidy SC said Gill suffered a significant brain injury and had dyskinetic cerebral palsy. He had to have a peg feeding system inserted.

Mr Reidy said Gill was a lively, kind, handsome boy who communicated through his eyes and with a flailing of his arms. He added that while Gill was non-verbal he had an amazing capacity to communicate.

“He is happy with one hell of a mother to look after him,” said Mr Reidy.

Gill, he said, would never be able to walk and did not have a function in his arms but could communicate and learn with the aid of a special computer which responds to his eye gaze.

Mr Reidy said Mr Justice Moriarty would have to assess damages, including future care, but added that the Government had been remiss in not bringing in legislation to provide annual index-linked funds in such cases.

Mr Justice Moriarty said he was aware of his colleague Ms Justice Mary Irvine’s comments in relation to the lack of legislation to allow for periodic payments in awarding compensation to catastrophically injured people.

Emily Egan SC, for the HSE, said her client was prepared to deal with the case on the basis of periodic payments with the payment of an initial lump sum and to adjourn the case for two years in the hope the legislation would be introduced by then.

The case continues before Mr Justice Moriarty.

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