Child awarded €4.5m for injuries sustained at birth

A child who suffered "devastating injuries" at birth due to "incompetence" of the medical staff who handled her delivery has secured €4.5m in damages at the High Court.

A child who suffered "devastating injuries" at birth due to "incompetence" of the medical staff who handled her delivery has secured €4.5m in damages at the High Court.

Today Ms Justice Mary Irvine said she had "no hesitation" in approving the settlement to Keri Brett (aged 6), who has cerebral palsy, who had sued the HSE through her mother Clodagh Brett (aged 34) Kilnockin Road, Fethard, Co Tipperary

Keri had suffered serious injuries as a result of negligence and breach of duty of care during her birth at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny on October 20, 2003, and will require 24-hour care for the rest of her life.

The case, which was before the High Court for an assessment of damages due to the child, heard that St Luke's had denied liability in 2007 for the injuries suffered by Keri in the circumstances of her birth in 2003 but, in July last, it conceded liability.

However an internal investigation carried out by the HSE, and completed in July 2004, revealed the birth was mismanaged and showed a total systems failure during Keri's birth.

Ms Justice Irvine also heard that the HSE had offered a full and unreserved apology to the Bretts for its acts and omissions in relation to its management of Clodagh Brett's labour and the delivery of Keri. The HSE extended the apology for the "undoubted trauma" they had suffered.

The court heard, following a difficult and prolonged labour, Keri suffered devastating injuries and is now mentally and physically handicapped and profoundly disabled. She is wheelchair-bound, visually impaired and will require constant care for the rest of her life, the judge was told.

It was claimed the HSE failed to properly manage Keri's birth and failed to have competent and appropriate medical personnel in attendance at the time.

Keri's birth was induced but there was no continuous fetal heart rate monitoring in place, it was claimed. There were episodes of large decelerations of the fetal heart and Mrs Brett was very distressed, it was alleged. There was an alleged failure to recognise the abnormal heart rate and to carry out an emergency caesarean at an appropriate time.

Clodagh Brett told the court that Keri's favourite colour was red and that she enjoyed having her nails painted. She told told the court that it have been a long battle. Keri was able to communicate but not everybody is able to know it.

The court also heard that despite a difficult first few years, when she was in constant pain, she had benefited from things such as being around other children and from attending school.

Counsel said that the award will be used for Keri's care, and the Brett family hope to build a new house on a greenfield site that will accommodate her needs. Counsel said that the efforts of Clodagh and Brendan Brett to help Keri could only be described as heroic.

Mr Liam Reidy for the Bretts said the HSE had denied all liability in the case in a defence delivered in March 2007 and verified by a sworn affidavit by the hospital manager.

Counsel said Ms Brett's solicitor Ernest Cantillon had sought discovery of Keri's medical records and the protocol in operation at St Luke's concerning continuous fetal heart monitoring during labour.

Details were also sought of all investigations conducted into the circumstances of Keri's birth including any witness statements or reports.

When that material was obtained following a judgment by Mr Justice Eamon De Valera, it included the July 2004 findings of an internal risk management assessment revealed there had been a "major systems failure" by St Luke's in relation to Keri's birth.

"The standard of care fell far below what could be considered a reasonable standard," said counsel, adding that the defendants' actions during the labour were "incompetent."

In pursuit of an explanation, Keri's parents had had three meetings with the hospital but no explanation was forthcoming, Mr Reidy said.

Commenting on the date of the apology from the HSE the Judge remarked that it was "a pity it did not come sooner," given the anxiety that the Brett family had gone through.

Clodagh Brett's personal action for damages against the HSE, arising out of the circumstances of Keri's birth, resumes before Mr Justice Vivian Lavan in the High Court tomorrow.

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