Defibrillator claim settled for €300,000

A claim by the husband of a woman, who died after a defibrillator failed to operate when it was used to attempt to resuscitate her, was settled during a High Court hearing.

The court heard that the woman suffered a cardiac arrest in her workplace cafeteria. An attempt to resuscitate failed when the defibrillator failed to work. Later that day, the woman’s death was certified as being due to acute heart failure by reason of a floppy mitral valve.

A medical report was obtained from a cardiologist by the woman’s husband. The report expressed the opinion that if the defibrillator had functioned, the woman’s prospect of survival would have increased by 38%. The husband issued proceedings against the woman’s employer, the supplier and the manufacturer of the defibrillator. He claimed on his own behalf and on his children’s behalf.

During the hearing, the court was asked to approve a settlement offer of €300,000 made by the supplier and the manufacturer of the defibrillator.

In asking the court to approve the offer, counsel for the husband said there would be a significant problem in establishing, as a matter of probability, that a functioning defibrillator would have led to the woman’s survival.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross made orders for payments of €30,000 to each of the woman’s two children, with the remainder for the husband.

The settlement terms raise an interesting issue. As the claim was settled by the supplier and manufacturer, no order was made against the employer. If the case against the employer had been proceeded with, would an award have been made against the employer?

This raises the further interesting question: if the employer did not have a defibrillator and a worker died of a heart attack by natural causes, could the employer have been sued for not having a defibrillator, or by having the defibrillator did the employer leave itself open itself to a claim? (Farrell v Heartsine and others: High Court, April 2021)

Source: HSR