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'Cynical and self-serving': Morrissey family slams State Claims Agency for mediation media statement

Ruth and Paul Morrissey have taken High Court action over her incorrectly read smear tests.

Ruth Morrissey outside the High Court yesterday.
Ruth Morrissey outside the High Court yesterday.
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Jul 27th 2018, 6:24 PM

A FAMILY THAT is suing the State over a mother’s incorrectly read smear tests has said that its claims agency has sought to “misrepresent the sham mediation” in this case earlier this week.

The State Claims Agency (SCA) earlier issued a press statement that it wants to resolve the case of Ruth Morrissey through mediation, and has written to the two laboratories acting as co-defendants in the case to try to resolve the matter out of court.

In emotional testimony this week, Ruth and her husband Paul Morrissey told the High Court that she had two smear tests incorrectly reported, and is now suffering from terminal cervical cancer.

The couple have taken the case against the HSE, US-based lab Quest Diagnostics and Irish firm Medlab Pathology Ltd.

The couple have a seven-year-old daughter and, yesterday, Paul Morrissey told the court it was “devastating” to hear his child say to Ruth “mammy, please don’t die, don’t leave”.

It was understood that this case could have extended into September, as the courts are set to break for the month of August, and the SCA – acting on behalf of the HSE in this case – said in a statement today that it is committed to expediting the resolution of all cervical cancer misdiagnosis “in a sensitive manner”.

“The SCA is not acting on behalf of the co-defendant laboratories, which have separate legal representation,” it said, adding that an earlier attempt of mediation during the week was unsuccessful.

The SCA has admitted liability in respect of the non-disclosure of the audit of Ms Morrissey’s smear tests. However, neither of the laboratories has admitted liability in respect of the smear tests they assessed.

With this invitation for the two laboratories – where one has been accused of misreading a smear in 2009 and the other a test from 2012 – to engage in mediation, the SCA said it hopes to resolve this matter as soon as possible.

It added: “ The SCA believes that mediation, which avoids the difficult and adversarial environment that a court hearing involves, provides the best route for a resolution without adding to the considerable distress and trauma that Ms Morrissey and her family have already suffered.”

‘Sham mediation’

In a statement this evening, however, on behalf of the Morrissey family, their solicitor Cian O’Carroll said that the SCA aimed to give the impression of a “frustrated defendant, seeking to resolve this case without a trial”.

“Ruth and Paul Morrissey have said this evening how they feel deep hurt that the State and its claims agency have sought to misrepresent the sham mediation that took place last week in a poorly veiled attempt to spare them the criticism that is rightly theirs for their conduct of this case,” O’Carroll said.

He said his clients believe that the State showed no interest in resolving the matter until the case came to media attention earlier this week.

O’Carroll said the State rejected several offers of mediation in the weeks leading up to the trial and that their agreement to do so earlier this week “now forms part of a press release to suit the purposes of the State Claims Agency”.

He accused the SCA of aiming to give “an altogether different impression to the general public of their role in this shameful case to date”.

The solicitor added that the current state of affairs is at odds with assurances given by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris that no other woman would be dragged through the courts as Vicky Phelan as a result of the CervicalCheck scandal.

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Sean Murray

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