March 4, 2014
Damian Tansey: Took the case for Ruby against the HSE

Damian Tansey: Took the case for Ruby against the HSE

A LITTLE County Donegal girl made legal history today when she was awarded €1.4M interim damages in a legal action against Letterkenny General Hospital. The settlement will be reviewed again in four years in the first case of its kind before the High Court.

Ruby McCandless (now 7) was left brain damaged after a failure to diagnose a serious medical condition in her mother in the days before her birth.

Callan Tansey Solicitors, lawyers for Ruby and her mother Christina heavily criticised the Health Service Executive for the delay in admitting liability in the case.

The court was told that at her final antenatal check-up at an outreach clinic in Carndonagh Community Hospital in March 2006, Mrs McCandless – from Gleneely –  had her blood pressure taken four times because nurses were so concerned about it.

However, the consultant who reviewed her said her high blood pressure was a borderline case and told her to attend her GP three days later.

Her blood pressure was 140 over 100 and she should have been immediately referred to hospital.

She was not warned about the possibility or symptoms of a serious complication of maternal high blood pressure – pre-eclampsia.

Two days later, she suffered an eclamptic seizure at home which deprived her baby of oxygen.

She had to be taken by ambulance to Letterkenny General Hospital 72km (45 miles) away where Ruby was delivered by emergency C-section on 30 March.

In the days following her birth, it became clear she had suffered permanent brain damage.

She has cerebral palsy, is severely physically disabled and will need constant care for the rest of her life.

In her statement of claim on behalf of her daughter, Mrs McCandless alleged there was only one consultant on duty at her final antenatal check-up two days before the birth where there would normally be two.

She said he appeared “harassed and under pressure” and her visit was very short.

It was alleged there was negligence and breach of duty in failing to admit her to hospital and diagnose her condition at the earliest opportunity or to warn her about the symptoms of pre-eclampsia.

Today the High Court approved an interim settlement of €1.4m and the case will return to court in four years’ time to reassess her needs.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine said the settlement was in the best interests of the young girl.

She said it was the first time an interim settlement had been reached for four years and saved the family the trouble of returning to court every two years.

Afterwards, Mrs McCandless said: “I am delighted and relieved it is all over, we’re happy with the settlement.”

Her solicitor Damien Tansey, from Callan Tansey Solicitors in Sligo which specialises in complex legal work involving the health services, said the settlement would transform Ruby’s life as she would be provided with equipment and facilities.

“It took five years for the case to settle and it was unfortunate that it took the HSE so long to admit liability,” he said.

“It is also good for the family that they can forget about legal concerns now until a review of Ruby’s needs in four years,” added Mr Tansey.