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Ruth Morrissey case could take double the time of previous CervicalCheck cases

The mother-of-one has said smear tests carried out in 2009 and 2012 were wrongly reported as normal.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE JUDGE IN a case taken by a woman over incorrectly read smear tests has said it is likely now it will take double the time of previous similar cases. He warned this may be “the pattern in the future” with cases related to the CervicalCheck scandal.

Ruth Morrissey, who lives on Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen in Co Limerick, has said smear tests carried out in 2009 and 2012 were wrongly reported as normal. She and her husband Paul, who have a seven-year-old daughter, are taking a High Court case against the HSE, US-based lab Quest Diagnostics and Irish firm Medlab Pathology.

Her lawyers argue that failures to correctly report previous smear tests resulted in devastating consequences for the Morrissey family.

The court had previously heard that the 37-year-old had been told that her cancer would progress to terminal within a year. However, at the last hearing in July, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the woman’s pelvic mass had reduced and that there is no evidence of disease elsewhere.

He heard that her tumour is inoperable and the plan was to proceed with a course of radical radiotherapy and to get CT scans in three months’ time.

The judge said the situation is “more hopeful” from Morrissey’s point of view than earlier reports on which the application for speedy trial were based.

Today the woman’s legal team requested an adjournment, telling the judge that they had received a number of expert reports from the laboratories.

Counsel for Morrissey, Jeremy Maher, said one report was of particular significance as the US professor who wrote it appears to find that the cancer Ruth Morrissey was diagnosed with in 2014 was not related to the anomalies that were missed in her smear tests. 

Maher argued that while there was always a denial of liability in this case, there is now a clear denial of causation that he had not anticipated. He requested time for tests and to get reports from his team’s experts to address the defence’s reports. 

“We managed to proceed two cases in quick order,” Judge Cross said. He said “extraordinary praise” was due to lawyers on both sides for this. 

It seems to me that the Morrissey case is now going to be progressed at a more normal speed and that is not something that is necessarily beneficial – particularly for the plaintiffs involved. 

Maher said it appeared that the laboratories were “contesting each and every aspect of the case”, which puts this case into “a different category”.

“This may be the pattern in the future,” the judge stated.

“It may be, Judge,” Maher replied.

Justice Kevin Cross said it is likely now that this case is going to take many weeks. He urged all parties to look at the “real issues” in this case and “not to go down any highways or byways”. 

Michael Cush, senior counsel for Quest Diagnostics, said his side had not “done anything other than was anticipated” in relation to new expert reports. He said he was not objecting to an adjournment but also requested that the judge set a trial date.

At the last hearing, the laboratories had argued that the case should not proceed until Ruth Morrissey finishes her current round of treatment. Cush said January “does actually fit with the timeline regarding reliable prognosis”.  Counsel for the other laboratory agreed. 

The judge adjourned the case until 26 October for mention, with the trial to commence on 29 January. He heard it is anticipated the trial will take six weeks. 

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