£3.8m Settlement for Brain Damage from Viral Encephalitis

A man has been awarded a £3.8m settlement for brain damage from viral encephalitis approved by the High Court. The illness was allegedly misdiagnosed as eczema.

Martin O’Brien developed a rash and itchy sores in January 1996. He was referred to hospital by his doctor, who believed he had scabies and who prescribed benzyl benzoate as a temporary measure.

At hospital, Martin was diagnosed as having eczema and, when his case was reviewed in February, it was claimed in court that he was advised to continue using the treatment prescribed for him in January.

However, by the end of March, he was complaining of aches, pains, fevers, perspiration and memory loss and, after attending the another hospital, on March 31st, Martin collapsed and was admitted to the hospital under the care of Dr. Brendan S Duffy.

Mr Justice John Quirke was told at the High Court that in the aftermath of his collapse, Martin had complained of having a blackout, amnesia, migraines, a stiff neck, a loss of power in his lower limbs and abnormal rolling of his eyes.

By the evening of the 31st March Martin was unable to recognise his wife and, it was alleged, that tests taken after his admission indicated encephalitis and possibly herpes simplex. However, no treatment against the virus was prescribed until April 4th, when Zovirax was prescribed, and on April 5th when Acyclovir was also added to the treatment. Martin stayed in hospital until August 1996.

In the following case brought, it was alleged that Martin suffered severe brain damage as a result of the delay and was described in court as a “child in a man´s body”. Martin is unable to work and has relied for the past fifteen years on care provided by his family.

A settlement of £3.8m without admission of liability was negotiated between legal representatives of Martin´s family and insurers for Dr Duffy. Approving the settlement, Mr Justice John Quirke paid tribute to Martin’s wife, Anna Marie, describing her as “a wonderful lady” and said that part of the award should immediately be paid to the family for the care they had provided.