Dying women’s emergency court date
Judge agrees to early trial date in case against two labs and the HSE
TWO women with cervical cancer who may only have months left to live have launched emergency High Court actions over alleged smear test blunders that could lead to multi-million euro payouts.
Both claimants, one of whom is in her mid-30s, have young families and are believed to be in a similar position to 43year-old mother-of-two Vicky Phelan, who recently settled her case for €2.5million.
The State Claims Agency said last night that it will aim to resolve these cases through mediation ‘in a sensitive manner as a matter of urgency and without the requirement for a court hearing’. The women are suing for compensation over alleged delays relating to the controversial CervicalCheck smears. They are suing the HSE and laboratories that carried out the original tests.
Their cases are ‘very urgent’ because one of them has been given a life expectancy ‘limited to months’, while the other claimant may have up to a year to live, according to expert opinions, the court heard yesterday. They both say they only discovered in recent weeks – in one case as recently as May 3 – that their smear tests may not have been carried out correctly.
They lodged their court actions this week and their solicitor Cian O’Carroll went before a judge yesterday to seek trial dates as soon as possible. There would be a real concern if their cases were not heard between now and the end of July, barrister Jeremy Maher SC argued. The HSE did not object to the requests.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross, head of the High Court’s personal injury division, set July trial dates in both cases due to their clear urgency. Afterwards, a source close to the two women said the court decision to fast-track their cases lifts ‘some bit of burden’ from their shoulders.
Although they are among 209 women whose test results were misread, a source close to the two women told the Irish Daily Mail: ‘Their prognosis is very poor and has been limited by a delayed diagnosis of cancer, making their cases very urgent.
‘It is definitely a help to get early trial dates. People worry terribly about the future for their children or spouse. We all worry about finances for those we are leaving behind if we are suffering from terrible illness.
‘There is some bit of burden lifted if they know this can be resolved soon.’
Life expectancy ‘limited to months’
The State Claims Agency said it was notified of the cases earlier this week.
It said: ‘Today’s court applications were requested by the solicitor representing the people making the claims to schedule a date for the court to hear each case.
‘The HSE is a named co-defendant in these cases alongside two laboratories. The State Claims Agency is managing these claims on behalf of the HSE in accordance with its statutory role. The SCA is not acting on behalf of the co-defendant laboratories, which have separate legal representation.
‘The SCA agreed to the judge’s timelines and will now engage with the codefendant laboratories with the aim of resolving these cases in a sensitive manner as a matter of urgency and without the requirement for a court hearing.
This is in accordance with the SCA’s preferred approach for dealing with such cases and the judge’s recommendation, in making the orders in the individual cases, that the cases be resolved through mediation. ‘In carrying out its statutory role in managing these cases, the SCA is committed to placing a high priority on treating the people who have made the claims, and their families, with dignity and compassion.’
A July date was also set for the hearing of a married woman who says her ovarian cancer diagnosed last year was missed even though she had been going for checks since 2010.
The trials will start on different dates in July, starting on July 12.
However, the judge urged all parties in all three cases to attempt to resolve the cases out of court in the meantime.
None of the women involved in the new cases can be named or identified by court order.