Tuesday 18 September 2018

Widower's action for distress after seeing ill wife spend three days in A&E chair is ruled out for being a day late

Beaumount Hospital - file picture
Beaumount Hospital - file picture

A WIDOWER’S legal action for alleged psychological distress at seeing his gravely-ill wife spend three days in a chair in a hospital A&E was brought a day too late, the High Court ruled.

Anthony Dignam cannot now sue over what happened to his wife Mary when she was transferred on June 11, 2010, from St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin to Beaumont Hospital where she sat in a chair for three days before getting a bed. She died on June 20 in Beaumont.

The High Court ruled yesterday that Mr Dignam (75) of Limekilns, Malahide, Road, Swords, Co Dublin, could not continue an action against Beaumont Hospital because it was brought a day outside the two-year statutory limit for bringing such claims.

Mr Dignam had brought his case in the Circuit Court for psychological injury at the upset and distress caused by seeing his wife, who was suffering from liver disease, in a chair for three days.

He also sued for negligence and breach of duty, claiming it had been agreed his wife would be admitted directly into a bed at Beaumont Hospital from St Patrick’s as her physical health and well-being was deteriorating.  It was decided to send her to Beaumont mainly because of oedema of lower limbs.

He also alleged Beaumont  Hospital  failed to inform Mrs Dignam’s consultant in St Patrick’s Hospital that a bed would not be available at Beaumont for upwards of three days.

The claims were denied by the hospital, which said that while a bed had not become available until June 14, Mrs Dignam had been provided with appropriate medical care and treatment.

The hospital sought to have the case dismissed because it had not been brought within the two-year statutory time limit.

The Circuit Court refused to dismiss the case and the hospital appealed to the High Court.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott overturned the Circuit Court order.


The judge said Mr Dignam had complained about the manner in which his wife was treated between June 11 and 14 and the court had to have regard to the circumstances in which the alleged cause of action is said to have arisen.

He was satisfied this was not a case which required authorisation from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) before he could sue although this authorisation was sought.

However, that did not conclude the matter and it was clear the application was made on June 14, 2012, which “was one day outside the period of limitation of two years within which an application ought to have been made to PIAB”, he said.

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