In June 1998, Emma O’Donnell (now sixteen years of age) of Aklow, County Wicklow, was born at the National Maternity Hospital by suction. Hours after she was born, Emma proceeded to have seizures and turned blue. She was subsequently diagnosed by cerebral palsy, causing her to need full time care. She suffers from intellectual disabilities, and has behavioural issues.
On behalf of his daughter, James Forde-who cares for Emma by himself since her mother was institutionalised in 2007 after suffering severe bi-polar disorder-made a claim for compensation for a teenager’s birth injury. He encountered difficulties while making this claim, as it was difficult to establish causation between the treatment that Emma had received and negligence before and after her birth.
The family’s solicitors tried to claim €9 million in compensation for the teenager’s birth injury, but the hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE) both placed a value on the claim of €6 million. They also stated that they would only pay this sum if full proof of negligence could be established. Eventually, a compromise was agreed in which the claim would be settled for €3 million. As Emma was a minor at the time of the trial, the sum would need to be approved by a judge in court on her behalf.
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns of the Dublin High Court heard the case, and heard details of Emma’s life to date. He was told that the case was brought so late in Emma’s life due to difficulties with liability ad that the hospital had provided a letter of consent to a settlement of compensation for a teenager’s birth injury amounting to €3 million.
The judge stated that it would be difficult to prove negligence if the claim went to a full hearing, and he approved the settlement of compensation for a teenager’s birth injury. He stated that James Forde had been “heroic” in caring for his daughter.