Thousands of single mothers in Ireland who had their children taken from them and forced into adoption may flood the courts after a High Court decision allowed a woman to sue for damages for an illegal adoption of her child in the 1970s.

Many of the children were adopted through Catholic church circles in America and a thriving baby trade existed for decades with children literally being bought from Ireland via a church network.

The woman, who claims she was not consulted when as a teen mother, her baby was taken for adoption, is suing a religious order and the HSE, as successor to the adoption agency which arranged the placement of her daughter more than 40 years ago, reports the Irish Examiner.

She claims the adoption was done without her knowledge or consent while she was a resident with the order and that she suffered psychological harm, among other injuries, due to the defendants’ alleged negligence, breach of duty, and breach of her constitutional rights.

The woman also claims fraud and undue influence in relation to documents she allegedly signed for the adoption.

The claims have been denied.

Justice Sean Ryan, dealing only with a preliminary issue as to whether the woman could sue for damages, described the case as a difficult, sensitive and painful one. He said the woman in the case, who is not contesting the adoption order, had no desire to upset the arrangement which had been made for her now adult child but was confining her claim to the alleged wrongs done to her.

The defence argued that the woman was not entitled to claim damages without first challenging the validity of the adoption order and without also possibly bringing others into the case, such as the child, the adoptive parents, and the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

The judge said the issue was whether the woman could prove her damages case without proving facts which might invalidate the adoption order.

The  religious order involved argued that the woman could not claim damages for being wrongfully deprived of her child unless the adoption order was declared invalid.

The judge, who ruled in the woman's favor, said it was not a precondition of seeking damages for her to include a claim that the adoption order was invalid. He said did not follow as a matter of law or logic that there should be such a rule.