Family faces ruin with $1m legal bill
By DAWN COHEN
BALLINA couple Mark Richards and Judith Ennis flew to Sydney hoping for an end to a five-year legal nightmare. But they returned to face possible bankruptcy.
The parents of developmentally-delayed Rhiannon last week lost a long-standing medical negligence claim against Dubbo paediatrician Dr Patrick Rahilly and Westmead Hospital in the NSW Supreme Court.
They believe the six-year-old's intellectual disability was caused by delayed diagnoses and treatment of epilepsy, which manifested when she was 11 months old.
However, Justice Clifton Hoeben ruled against them, ordering the couple to pay the defendants' costs.
"We are shocked," said a devastated Mr Richards from his modest Ballina home.
"We will have to sell our house to pay the legal fees."
Those fees are expected to be close to $1 million.
The ruling is the latest in a series of heartbreaks for the family.
Last year, oral submissions were submitted to the court before Justice Jeff Shaw, days before the judge crashed his Alfa Romeo while allegedly under the influence of alcohol, leading to his resignation.
The case had to be reheard, but in November, Justice Wood recommended the Attorney-General's Department pick up the tab for additional trial costs.
The couple were not required to give evidence again, with transcripts from the previous trial used, saving them from the trauma of testifying again.
The family declined to comment on the ruling.
"We are talking with our lawyers about appealing," Mr Richards said.
The couple have 28 days to make a decision on the appeal.