Protest at Charlottetown courthouse in support of family suing hospital

There was a protest outside the Supreme Court of P.E.I. Wednesday in support of a family who is in the midst of a $22 million lawsuit against the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

It has been 7 years and counting since the lawsuit was filed in 2012

Protestors gathered to demand Emma Roche receive her day in court. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A protest was held Wednesday morning outside the Supreme Court of P.E.I. in support of a family in the midst of a $22 million lawsuit against the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and one doctor. 

It has been seven years since the lawsuit was filed in 2012 against the QEH and Dr. Peter Noonan and no trial date to hear the case has been set yet.

Emma Roche was eight months old when she suffered severe brain damage after going into cardio respiratory arrest at the QEH in Charlottetown in 2011, according to the family's statement of claim.  She had originally been seen at the hospital for influenza and croup.

She was airlifted to IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax and on Feb. 5, 2011 cerebral testing confirmed "severe brain injury with limited brain function," according to the family's statement of claim.

Since then, Emma has required 24-hour care, her family said.

'Evidence will speak for itself'

Emma's grandfather Joe Driscoll was among the protesters outside the court demanding Emma have her day in court.

"We deserve a court date, eight years is long enough. We're not asking for any special concessions. Our evidence will speak for itself. All it needs to be is heard."

'We appreciate them'

In their statement of claim filed in court, Emma's parents Danny Roche and Melissa Driscoll accuse Noonan and the QEH of providing inadequate care. Both parents stood with protesters to offer a thank you for their support before heading into court. 

"It is great to have the support of the Islanders here. We appreciate them being here," Roche said.

Driscoll also said she was happy to see the amount of support shown outside the courthouse.

"To have the support from our friends and family and complete strangers is unbelievable. We really appreciate it."

She said it is a tough day and it's hard to relive in court what happened to her daughter.

Joe Driscoll is Emma Roche's grandfather and spoke at the protest at the Charlottetown courthouse Wednesday morning. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

In court documents both Noonan and the QEH deny all the allegations against them and say they met the requisite standard of care. The government's statement of defence also said that any injuries to Emma were caused by the negligence of her parents by exposing her to a sick child, failing to comply with medical advice and failing to follow recommended treatment.

Motion to separate trial into 2 parts

On Wednesday, Noonan's defence laywer, Thomas Laughlin, argued a motion in P.E.I. Supreme Court to separate the trial in two — one for liability and one for damages. "It's the most expeditious, cost effective and fair way to proceed," he said.

"Was it preventable, and if so, was it a breach of standard of care to have failed to prevent it?" said Laughlin. "If they were responsible, to what extent are they responsible? Those are the questions."

The defence also asked for a trial by judge alone instead of by a jury — saying the trial could last close to five months and would be too long and too complicated for a jury.

"It will be an exceptionally long trial, one that's rare in this jurisdiction," Laughlin told court.

Emma's parents, Melissa Driscoll, left, and Danny Roche stopped to thank protesters outside the courthouse before heading inside. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Regarding the length of time this case has taken so far, Laughlin recounted the various documents and hearings that have taken place since 2012.

"The record shows effort by all parties to move this matter along," he told the court, adding, "We are ready for trial on liability now."

The lawyer representing Driscoll and Roche, Ray Wagner, said he's been ready to go to trial for three years now and "the family wants their day in court."  Wagner said if two trials were held some witnesses may have to testify twice.

Wagner told the judge this case is not too complex for a jury to hear. "The focus is going to be on the care she received.… These are issues that are not above the head of the average citizen." 

The lawyer for the province, Steve Forbes, said his client takes no position on either of Noonan's motions.

Justice Terri MacPherson said she will make a decision as soon as possible.

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With files from Brian Higgins