A teenage girl who suffered respiratory distress syndrome as a result of her premature birth-which was caused by her mother’s involvement in a road traffic acciddent-has received €17,800 in compensation.
In April 1999, Martina Sheehan of Rathfarnham in Dublin was driving along the Templeroan Road in Rathfarnham, and was thirty-six weeks pregnant at the time. Martina was involved with a collision with a car driving in the opposite direction, driven by Elaine O’Connor.
Neither driver was injured in the accident, but the shock of the impact resulted in Martina going into labour several weeks early. After two days of labour, she gave birth to a daughter at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin.
Her daughter-Aoife-immediately suffered from respiratory distress syndrome, and needed to be transferred to the neo-natal intensive care unit. She was placed on a ventilator to assist her breathing, and given medication. Aoife remained critically ill for a further three weeks, and remained in the intensive care unit for that duration of time.
On behalf of her daughter (now fourteen years of age), Martina made a claim for foetal injuries in a car crash on the grounds that, had the accident not occurred, Martina would not have gone into premature labour and Aoife would not have been born so early. If Aoife was not born so early, she would not have suffered respiratory distress syndrome as she did.
Elaine O’Connor’s insurance company denied their policyholder’s liability for Aoife’s injuries. They claimed that there was no proof that the accident was responsible for the early onset of labour. They claimed that Aoife’s premature birth caused her breathing difficulties as pre-term babies were more predisposed to respiratory distress.
However, Martina and Aoife’s legal team continued with the claim for foetal injuries in a car crash and, as Judge Matthew Deery heard at the Circuit Civil Court was told, a settlement was negotiated between the parties, and it was agreed that would see Aoife receive €17,800 in compensation for her pre-birth injuries.
The judge approved the settlement, stating that it was a good one in the circumstances, and ordered that Aoife´s compensation be paid into court funds, where it will remain until she reaches the age of eighteen.