A 13-year-old boy with autism who sued a neurologist alleging there was a failure to properly inform his mother about the risks of taking an epilepsy treatment drug during pregnancy has settled his High Court action for €15 million.
The settlement of €15 million to Jack Clarke, from Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, is without an admission of liability.
The boy’s younger brother Tom has also settled his High Court action, with a €2.65 million interim payment for the next seven years.
The court heard that their older sister Hanna Clarke has also sued and has a case pending before the High Court.
The latest settlement occurred after Jack’s case, which had opened before the High Court, adjourned for mediation.
Counsel Aongus O’Brolchain SC, instructed by Michael Boylan solicitors, told the court Jack’s legal team was recommending the €15 million settlement in his case.
In Jack’s proceedings, it was claimed that if his mother Elizabeth Elliot Clarke had been warned about the known risks of autism from taking Epilim, she would have opted for alternative treatment.
As a result, it was claimed, Jack was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and has global development delay falling within the moderate range.
Through his mother, Jack sued consultant neurologist Dr Raymond Murphy, of the Charlemont Clinic in Dublin. The claims were denied.
A second case was brought by Jack’s nine-year old brother, Tom, who was born in September 2013, and whose autism diagnosis is less severe.
Liability was admitted in that case which has now settled with a €2.65 million payment for the next seven years, the court heard. His case will come back before the court in 2030 when Tom’s needs will be further assessed.
In a statement read to the court, Ms Elliot Clarke said the settlements will assist in giving the children “all of the help they need as we navigate the years ahead”.
“For us, the admission of liability for Tom together with the settlement for Jack is quite simply vindication. The blame for the injuries suffered by my children does not lie at my door,” the statement said.
“Today’s settlement in both cases opens the door for others, we sincerely hope, who are searching for and deserve to be vindicated. I want the boy’s cases to help others,” it added.
“We as a family must live with the injuries suffered by our children every day. That is our normal. However, the most difficult element that we must come to terms with, is that, it has now been clearly found that none of this had to happen. No admission of liability or settlement can change that.
“For children with autism, routine is so important and the legal process and all of the assessments has disrupted that routine so greatly,” it concluded.
Mr Justice Paul Coffey approved the settlements and said they were fair and reasonable. He said he wished to acknowledge " the magnificent care” given by the Clarke family to their children.
During the14-year period as his patient, she was prescribed Epilim together with other drugs on occasion.
In 2000, counsel said, the doctor advised her that in the event of her becoming pregnant, there was a risk of the foetus developing spina bifida within the first 28 days but that the risk was low and that taking folic acid would reduce that risk.
She had her first child, Hanna, in 2007 and during the pregnancy expressed concern to Dr Murphy about the risk. However, as this was after the 28-day period, and therefore a past risk, he continued to prescribe Epilim. When she became pregnant with Jack, in 2008, he continued to prescribe the drug during pregnancy.
It is claimed the defendant did not discuss the risks associated with continuing to take it. Other than the risk of spina bifida, Dr Murphy did not discuss the possibility of neurodevelopmental impairments as a result of ingesting Epilim, it is alleged.
Mr O’Brolchain said she was never told about any other physical or mental issues associated with the drug even though autism and Asperger’s Syndrome risks were known at the time and discussed in medical literature.