They will say failures were down to ‘limitations’ of screening
The laboratories at the centre of the CervicalCheck scandal are to field a team of scientific experts to argue that cancer victim Ruth Morrissey’s incorrect smear test results were not the result of a mistake.
The defence team will claim that the failure to detect any abnormalities in Ms Morrissey’s tests was simply because of the limitations of the screening process.
Ms Morrissey (37), of Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, received two test results in 2009 and 2012, which did not show any abnormalities.
However, in 2014 she went on to develop cervical cancer, which is now advanced.
Her lawyers are understood to have secured several expert opinions to support their case that mistakes were made in the reading and interpretation of both slides.
But they will clash with the defence team’s experts, who will question the alleged negligence.
The laboratory opinions have yet to be finalised and an adjournment was sought at the High Court to allow time to secure them.
Ms Morrissey is among 221 women whose test results were audited by CervicalCheck in 2014. The audits concluded that errors were made, which led to significant delay in diagnosis and treatment.
Ms Morrissey, the mother of a seven-year-old daughter, also has breast cancer. She is the latest victim to become involved in an intense legal battle.
She her husband Paul gave harrowing testimony during the three-day hearing last week.
They have sued the HSE and US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd, with offices at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin, along with Medlab Pathology Ltd, based at Sandyford Business Park.
The HSE admits liability for the delay in giving the audit report to Ms Morrissey.
But the greater part of any compensation would have to be paid for by the laboratories and they are resisting the claim.
The State Claims Agency, which only acts for the HSE, had no further comment to make yesterday on its appeal to lawyers for the two labs to get back into mediation and spare the family further court ordeals.
The case is due to come before the court again tomorrow and is expected to be adjourned until late September, although mediation may resume in the meantime.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris, who promised women whose cases were audited by CervicalCheck would not have to endure a court trial, are under pressure to allow the State to step in and compensate Ms Morrissey.
Mr Varadkar previously suggested that in cases where the laboratories were contesting liability, the State could settle with the woman, then pursue the laboratories.
In a scathing attack yesterday, Ms Morrissey’s solicitor Cian O’Carroll, said: “It is both tedious and meaningless, the way they keep repeating the word ‘mediation’ like a mantra – as if by repeating it often enough, it becomes endowed with magical powers.
“If the parties are interested in compromise, it will work but so will ordinary negotiations. If the defendants won’t even make an offer, then it won’t work.
“The plaintiffs here gave all three defendants a day at mediation last Monday and they couldn’t even pay them the courtesy of making an offer.
“So they can forget it if they think we are now going to agree to another mediation just to spare the Taoiseach and Mr Harris their embarrassment at being caught out in their insincerity, if not bald untruths.
“If they want to resolve the case, their extensive and well practiced legal team knows well how to negotiate. If they don’t, then they should have the decency not to launch a public relations assault on Ruth and Paul Morrissey.”
Mr O’Carroll pointed to the role of the HSE, along with the labs, in the case of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the mother of five who settled her case for €7.5m.
She was told if she did not accept damages based on foster care – as opposed to home care – for her children, they would seek legal costs against her.