High Court approves €15m settlement in brain damage case

After two previous interim awards, it brings to €17.6m the total damages to provide lifelong care to Arron O'Keefe, who has cerebral palsy.

The boy's family said they wanted people to understand the award of damages was "not some sort of lottery win" and would be "badly needed" to provide the care and treatment he needs.

They said they would "hand back the money in a heartbeat" if he could get back what was taken from him in the hours before his birth.

Arron had sued the Health Service Executive through his mother, Helen O'Keeffe, of The Island, Kiskeam, Mallow, Co Cork, as a result of the circumstances surrounding his birth at Erinville Hospital, Western Road, Cork, on 11 April 2006.

It was claimed that the HSE was negligent and in breach of duty in that it failed to ensure continued and careful monitoring and observation of the condition of the baby and his mother following admission on 11 April 2006.

It was claimed that, because of the negligence by the HSE in the management of his mother's pregnancy, induction of labour, and delivery, Arron suffered a lack of oxygen to the brain, resulting in cerebral palsy.

The court heard Ms O'Keeffe had been admitted to Erinville Hospital on 11 April 2006 for planned induction of labour.

A cardiotocograph trace was started before 8am and showed abnormalities in the foetal heartbeat.

At about 1.30pm a decision was made to deliver by emergency caesarean section, but when Arron was born over an hour later, he was in a very poor condition and required vigorous resuscitation.

The court heard Arron has attended national school for a few hours a day, but has constant epileptic seizures and cannot attend school very often. He can speak a few words and has some mobility and is able to walk a few steps with help.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross this afternoon approved the settlement, which he said would provide care for Arron's "hopefully long life".

The judge stressed that the award of damages was necessary to give Arron as normal a life as possible and was not "a fortune" as some people might think.

He said the actual amount of compensation was less than half a million euro and the rest was to provide care and therapy.

He said that is "the reason the courts are there, to give compensation to those who deserve it".

Afterwards, the family issued a statement to say the final settlement "marks the end of a 13-year ordeal for us, but we would hand this €15m and the earlier settlements back in a heartbeat, if it were possible for Arron to get back what was taken from him in those hours before his birth".

They added: "We think it is important for people to understand that this settlement is not some kind of lottery win for Arron, all of this money will be badly needed so that Arron can live as normal life as possible for rest of his life.

"It will help to ensure that he will get all the excellent care, treatment and therapy he needs over the coming years and hopefully this financial settlement can bring him some stability throughout his life.

"Arron has always had a happy, smiling face, even from birth, with a twinkle in his eye and no matter what pain and suffering he has been going through over the past 13 years, he always came back with that special smile that would light up a room."

They further thanked the legal team of Augustus Cullen Law "for the support they have given over the years and also Arron's GPs for their support".