€8m interim settlement for Caitlin (9) as hospital apologises for life-changing injuries during her birth

Cork University Maternity Hospital has apologised unreservedly to a nine-year old girl for the life changing injuries caused to her at the time of her birth.

The apology was read out in the High Court as Caitlin Twomey settled her legal action with one of the highest interim settlements of €8 million.

Damages in the case will be assessed when the case comes back before the court in ten years’ time.

Caitlin’s counsel Dr John O’Mahony SC, with Cian O’Mahony BL, told the court Caitlin has cerebral palsy, is unable to safely walk unaided and can only say some words.

By the time she was seven, she had only two words: go and dad, counsel said.

“She is profoundly disabled. She requires 24/7 care,” Dr O’Mahony said.

He said there were “red flags” during labour which went unobserved and misunderstood and Caitlin suffered very serious brain damage and is profoundly disabled.

Liability in the case was admitted in August of this year.

A letter of apology from the hospital clinical director Professor John Higgins was read to the court.

“On behalf of CUMH, I would like to apologise unreservedly to you and Caitlin and family for the life-changing injuries caused to Caitlin at the time of delivery in CUMH on December 13, 2011,” it said.

It added: “We know that Caitlin you and your family have faced enormous difficulties since these events and we want to express our sincere regret to Caitlin you and your family for what has happened.”

Caitlin, of Ballincollig, Co Cork, had, through her mother Michelle Twomey, sued the HSE over the circumstances of her birth at the hospital on December 13, 2011.

It was claimed there was a failure to act in a timely and appropriate manner in response to the signs of foetal distress which it was alleged were permitted to continue and to worsen.

It was further claimed there was a failure to take the necessary step of stopping to administer syntocinon, a drug used to bring on labour, when the mother’s contraction frequency was excessive.

There was an alleged failure to have regard to the abnormalities including decelerations on the CTG trace, which monitors the baby’s heartbeat.

There was also an alleged failure to summon a senior doctor and a failure to intervene to deliver the baby no later than 18.50. Caitlin was delivered at 19.59. but she was in poor condition and was blue and limp. She remained in the special care unit until Christmas Eve.

Dr O’Mahony told the court the total ultimate value of Caitlin’s case would be in the region of €55 million and the interim settlement for ten years was one of the highest so far.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Paul Coffey said it was a sad and tragic case. He praised the heroism of Michelle Twomey and her family for the care they give to Caitlin and said the girl’s needs are considerable.

Outside court, family solicitor Anne Marie Donnelly said it was a good day for Caitlin, her mother and family.

“It is disappointing that liability was denied to Caitlin’s mother Michelle for a number of years and was only admitted approximately two months ago,” she said.

“This delay caused distress and anxiety to Michelle and her family.”

She added: “The apology received from CUMH for their failings in the care provided to Caitlin which led to her suffering these life altering injuries is welcome.

“The court ruling today will enable Michelle to provide care to Caitlin in a sustainable manner and she can now access the various therapies which were previously unavailable to her.”