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  • Writer's picturePatrick Moriarty

Supreme Court allows man to sue hospital over MRSA infection

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

A hospital has lost, by a four to one majority, a Supreme Court appeal aimed at preventing a man suing it for damages over allegedly contracting a severe MRSA infection during surgery.

The appeal by the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork centered on whether Oliver O’Sullivan’s claim was statute barred, brought outside the two year period for personal injuries suffered due to alleged negligence and breach of duty.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal because it raised issues of general public importance concerning proper interpretation and application of sections 2 and 3 of the 1991 Statute of Limitations Act.

If you want to learn how a High Court action can be funded please contact us on 087 2285247 or

On Thursday, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said all of the judges agreed that reconsideration of the complex statutory limitation periods applicable to personal injury actions is “desirable”.

Mr O’Sullivan, with an address at Cul Ard, Carrigtwohill, Cork, issued a personal injuries summons on August 19th 2008 alleging he contracted MRSA during surgery on September 20th 2005 due to alleged negligence and breach of duty by the hospital. No negligence was alleged concerning the actual intestinal surgery, carried out when Mr O’Sullivan was aged 25.

As a result of contracting a severe MRSA infection, Mr O’Sullivan became very ill, was re-admitted and underwent further surgery. In a pre-trial application, the hospital claimed the action was not commenced within two years of accrual of the cause of action, or from the date of knowledge of that, if later, within the relevant provisions of the 1991 Act.

After a 2/1 Court of Appeal majority upheld a High Court refusal to halt the case, the Supreme Court heard a further appeal.

On Thursday, Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan, Mr Justice William McKechnie, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Mr Justice Peter Charleton allowed the appeal. Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell dissented.

Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan said the issue was whether or not Mr O’Sullivan’s date of knowledge within the meaning of section 2 of the 1991 Act was on or after August 20th 2006, with the effect the personal injury summons issued on his behalf on August 19th 2008 was within the two year limitation period.

According to agreed facts for the appeal, Mr O’Sullivan became infected with MRSA on September 20th 2005 during an operation at the hospital, she said. When he was very ill on October 4th, a doctor told him he had been infected with MRSA during the earlier surgery.

In March 2006, his mother watched a TV programme about people who had become infected with MRSA in hospitals in Ireland, told her son about it and gave him the number of a participant in the programme. Mr O’Sullivan then contacted a solicitor explaining he had “picked up” MRSA in hospital and wanted to find out what happened to him and what went wrong.

In May 2006 he sought his hospital medical records and got those on July 17th 2006, including a report on a swab collected on September 30th 2005 stating ‘MRSA (heavy growth) isolated’.

Financial Blueprint of a Medical Negligence Case

Medical Negligence and personal injury cases are often a topic of conversation in Ireland. A case is built on the strength of expert reports and testimony. The ancillary costs are driven up by lack of access to salient medical records and details. This further underlines the need for mandatory disclosure and the need for patients to have live access to their own updated medical records.

At Peter McDonnell & Associates we know from experience that the single greatest cause of worry for clients is the issue of legal fees and costs. People worry that before a case commences or at the end of their case, they will be presented with a large legal bill that will be impossible to pay.

If you want to learn how a High Court action can be funded please contact us on 087 2285247 or

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or a proportion of any award or settlement.

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