Kevin Greaney who sustained injuries to his back and chest in a motor cycle accident on the 10th July 2005 sued the HSE as a result of the failure by the Emergency Department of Limerick Regional Hospital to correctly diagnose compression wedge fractures of his T11 and T12 vertebrae and their failure to give him appropriate advice and treatment for those fractures.
Mr. Greaney was referred to the A&E department of Limerick Regional Hospital on the date of his accident where he complained of severe pain, especially in his back and abdomen. X-rays were carried out and following these he was advised by the Defendants Doctors that there were no fractures and that he did not require any further treatment other than rest and analgesics. He was then discharged from the Defendants Care.
In 2009, Mr. Greaney continued to experience back pain and decided to visit his GP. Following the consultation he was referred for an MRI scan of his mid-thoracic to lumbar region and his left shoulder. This MRI scan was carried out in the MRI Centre at Barringtons Hospital in Limerick on the 16th March 2009 and it showed that there was a compression fracture involving the mid to anterior third of the T11 vertebral body, that the vertical height of the anterior body of this vertebrae was reduced by 50%, and that there was degenerative change in the T10/T11 disc space above.
Mr. Greaney was subsequently referred to a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Eric Masterson who saw him on the 11th May 2009. Professor Masterson examined the original x-rays taken in July 2005 and reported that the wedge compression fracture could be seen fairly clearly. He was also of the opinion that the fracture had long since healed, that it was causing a mild misalignment of his facet joints at the back of his spine and that this was what was causing his mechanical pain in that region.
The Judge found that the spinal problems now experienced by Mr. Greaney were caused by the negligence of the Defendants and that there had been an additional loss of 20% in height in his T11 vertebrae between the date when the first x-ray was taken in July 2005 and the subsequent MRI in 2009.
The Judge also held that the additional loss of vertebral height could have been prevented if Mr. Greaney had been given a suitable body brace to wear for a period of between 8-12 weeks post-accident and if he had been advised to desist from forward bending and any heavy lifting and to commence exercises including swimming to rehabilitate his injury.
The Judge rejected the evidence of Mr. Macey Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon called on behalf of the Defendant. Mr. Macey was of the opinion that there was little or no injury or damage to the facet joints at the back as demonstrated on the MRI scans.
He also disputed any connection between the wearing of a brace any the prevention of further loss of vertebral height during the bone healing process.
The Judge awarded Mr. Greaney a sum of €35,000 for his pain and suffering to date, a further sum of €60,000.00 for pain and suffering into the future and general damages to compensate him for the destruction of his career in the sum of €50,000 making a total award of €145,000.