On the 29th November 2013, the Medical Negligence team of Cantillons settled a High Court claim* for a 6 year old boy, Dylan Gaffney Hayes, for the sum of €8.5 million. Dylan sustained catastrophic injuries during the course of his birth at Waterford Regional Hospital on the 22nd July 2007.  As a result of the negligent management of his mother’s labour (she should not have been allowed to have a normal delivery) her womb and bladder ruptured during the labour.  Dylan sustained irreversible brain damage during his birth which gave rise to the condition of cerebral palsy which has resulted in profound motor disability with involvement of all four limbs.  The Consultant in charge of Ms. Gaffney’s care informed the family within days of Dylan’s birth that there was negligence, that the hospital would be holding their hands up and there would be no cover up.  However, that was not what happened and what ensued was a most difficult fight for justice for an innocent little boy and his family who had to take on the might of the State to get compensation.

Dylan is profoundly physically disabled.  He has impaired motor function and is a wheelchair user.  He needs assistance with feeding and all activities of daily living.  His higher faculties were also damaged and he has significant memory problems and he also has epilepsy. Dylan, therefore, has complex care needs.  Dylan is, notwithstanding his complex needs, a charming and engaging little boy.  He is a credit to his parents and sister, who have given devoted care to Dylan throughout his life.  Ms. Gaffney has Psoriatic Arthritis.  Ms. Gaffney and Dylan’s father Mr. Hayes had to stop working in order to care for Dylan.

In birth injury cases, there is a window of opportunity to maximise a child’s physical potential, by providing the child with appropriate therapies in the form of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and the provision of appropriate aids and equipment.  If the therapies/equipment are provided within that window, then the child’s rehabilitation can be maximised.  This has long term benefits for the child in terms of improving the quality of their life and life expectancy.  The Team therefore wanted to achieve an early settlement for Dylan.  Accordingly, the Team took the unusual step of writing to Waterford Regional Hospital (HSE) and informed them, in considerable detail, of the negligence identified by the independent expert retained by Cantillons Solicitors.  This could hardly have come as a surprise to Waterford Regional Hospital / the HSE, because, as already indicated, the Obstetrician had indicated to Dylan’s parents that there would be no cover up, and that the hospital would be “holding their hands up”.  The unusual step, of writing in such detail, was taken by the Team in the hope that it would prompt an early resolution to the litigation.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.  Waterford Regional Hospital / the HSE did not have the courtesy to even reply to the letter.  Proceedings were therefore issued on behalf of Ms. Gaffney and on behalf of Dylan. 

The family urgently required funds to enable them obtain the therapies, aids and equipment that would minimise Dylan’s disabilities, and maximise his abilities.  

The HSE eventually admitted liability on the 20th July 2010, in Ms. Gaffney’s case (the letter paradoxically arrived on Dylan’s third birthday).  However, rather coldly, there was no explanation or apology accompanying the letter.   It was just a bald statement that liability would not be contested in Ms. Gaffney’s case.  Ms. Gaffney’s case was compromised, on the steps of the High Court, on the 1st March 2011.  Notwithstanding the admission of liability on the 20th July 2011, and the compromise on the 1st March 2011 in Ms. Gaffney’s case, the HSE continued to deny liability in Dylan’s case until the 7th June 2012.  No explanation was ever proffered for this.  On receipt of the admission of liability, the Team asked the HSE for a modest interim payment for Dylan so that therapies, aids and equipment could be obtained.  This request was refused.  Indeed, just before the trial was due to commence on the 30th May 2013 the HSE sought an adjournment.  However, the Team managed to obtain a substantial interim payment. 

The case ultimately commenced on the 7th November 2013.  It ran for some 11 days before it was compromised with Dylan being awarded a total of €8.5 million.

In approving the settlement Ms. Justice Mary Irvine said she rarely made a comment on the conduct of a Defendant and stated:-

"Putting it at its mildest form, I think it is highly regrettable the HSE for whatever reason was not in a position to take responsibility until June 2012, five years after the birth.  The fear and the stress generated by that type of delay in admitting responsibility for a child’s catastrophic injuries is unimaginable for the child’s parents, and often significantly postpone treatments and professional care that that child so badly needs."

Ms. Justice Irvine also praised Dylan’s parents and said anybody in Court when Dylan’s mother gave her evidence could not be but deeply moved by her account. What the couple had done for their son to bring out the very best in him was nothing short of inspiring, the Judge said.

The family issued a statement following the conclusion of the trial which can be accessed via the link below:-

http://www.thejournal.ie/dylan-gaffney-hse-settlement-statement-in-full-1198831-Nov2013/

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/statement-of-jean-gaffney-and-thomas-hayes-29795236.html

http://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/dylan-gaffneys-family-given-settlement-2864897

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/hse-criticised-for-five-year-delay-as-boy-awarded-8-5m-1.1611865

Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or info@cantillons.com if you would like more information.

* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.

 


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