September 22, 2022

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A 46-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who sued over the circumstances of her birth at Galway Regional Hospital has settled a High Court action for €850,000.

The court heard Paula Corcoran, from Sligo town, cannot speak and requires a wheelchair and full-time care. The settlement against the HSE is without an admission of liability and all of the claims are denied.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Garrett Simons noted the exceptional care Ms Corcoran’s family had given her throughout the years.

“They have made an excellent contribution. She is very, very lucky,” the judge said.

Alistair Rutherdale, instructed by solicitor David O’Malley, told the court that proceedings were brought in 2014 when Paula Corcoran was 38. The case is unusual in that it refers to circumstances 46 years ago and is regarded as the first alleging medical negligence concerning events more than 40 years ago.

Paula Corcoran’s mother, Emily Corcoran, was admitted to the hospital on April 7th, 1976, after she was advised that her baby was presenting in an abnormal position, it is claimed. She went into labour overnight and was transferred to the labour ward the next day. Paula Corcoran was delivered by emergency Caesarean section later but required resuscitation.

Earlier intervention

The judge said it was the Corcorans’ case that particular attention should have been paid to the position in which the baby was lying before birth. It was claimed there should have been one-to-one monitoring and earlier intervention.

The judge said the case had to be viewed from the medical practice standards of the time. He said the defence denies all the claims and contended that the birth was carefully monitored and that proper due care and attention were given to the mother and baby.

The HSE also had raised the issue of the delay in bringing the proceedings and a motion to strike out the case on the grounds of delay had been part-heard by the courts.

Referring to the circumstances of the case and the risk in relation to liability, the judge said it was a very fair settlement. He added that it was also a case where recollection would be of particular importance.

Paula Corcoran had through her late father, Malachy Corcoran, sued the HSE over the circumstances and management of her birth at the hospital, now known as University College Hospital, Galway. All the claims were denied.

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