The legal action taken by a terminally-ill woman over the alleged misreading of her cervical smear tests has been adjourned until January and may take double the time anticipated.

The High Court agreed to adjourn the case taken by Ruth Morrissey and her husband, Paul, from Monaleen in Co Limerick, after hearing that they need more time for their experts to carry out further testing.

The couple are suing the Health Service Executive, and two laboratories: Quest Diagnostics and MedLab Pathology.

They claim there was a failure to correctly interpret, report and diagnose smears taken in 2009 and 2012.

Ms Morrissey was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014 and was told earlier this year that her cancer had recurred and was terminal.

Her lawyers claimed that if the tests had been correctly read in 2009 and 2012, she would have been spared invasive treatment and may not have developed cancer at all.

The case opened in July and was due to resume today. 

Lawyers for the Morrisseys asked the judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Kevin Cross, to adjourn it.

They said they had received updated reports from the defendants. This included, they said, "an essay" in relation to the general cancer screening programme.  

But it also included an expert opinion that Ms Morrissey's cancer, diagnosed in 2014, had nothing to do with the previous smears.

Senior Counsel Jeremy Maher said Ms Morrissey was now faced with a very serious assertion, they were currently not in a position to deal with. 

Mr Maher also said the defendants had an opportunity to examine slides taken without markers placed on them by a HSE audit and their side now needed the same opportunity. 

Mr Maher said they were being met with a defence where experts were contesting each and every aspect of the case. 

Mr Justice Cross said the Morrissey case had been proceeded with "in very quick order" and it now seemed it was going to be progressed at a more normal speed, which would not be beneficial for the plaintiffs involved.

He said the case had been brought on the basis that there would be a quick evaluation by experts on each side which they would stand over.

But it now seemed this would not be possible in Ms Morrissey's case. Lawyers for Ms Morrissey agreed that this may become the pattern in these cases from now on.

Mr Maher also told the court the defendants had produced reports commenting in a general way on the adequacies or inadequacies of the screening programme.

He said they were claiming it was the best programme we could have but that mistakes happen. 

He said this was something Ms Morrissey's side may have to address as the view taken by the defendants about the adequacy of the screening programme here was not shared worldwide - particularly in Scandinavian countries. 

Mr Justice Cross said he did not see that the general health or otherwise of the screening programme was relevant to Ms Morrissey's case.

The judge said that what was being said to him was that the current system was not going to be efficient to resolve these disputes. 

Mr Maher agreed that this case was supposed to take four weeks, but might take double that time.

Lawyers for the HSE and Quest Diagnostics said they were not opposing the adjournment application. Lawyers for MedLab said they wanted the case heard at the earliest possible opportunity. 

Senior Counsel Michael Cush for Quest said a later timeline would fit with the dates by which they were expecting a reliable prognosis for Ms Morrissey and it was a case of greater complexity than initially thought.

He said the laboratory was not asking the judge to rule on the screening programme in general. But they said when assessing an allegation of negligence the court should understand what the screening programme was about. 

Mr Justice Cross advised all parties to see what could be done to focus on the "real issues" and not to go down "all sorts of byways and highways".  

He urged them to have "sensible discussions" to see if the length of the case could be shortened, as he said he was sure everyone would like to dispose of the matter in an expeditious manner. 

The judge said this was a matter of great public agitation and comment - some of it well informed and some not.  But he said balancing all matters, he would grant the adjournment.

The case will be mentioned on Friday 26 October and the hearing will resume on 29 January.  The court heard it could take four to six weeks.

Separately, the case of Emma Mhic Mhathúna who has terminal cancer and settled her legal action against the HSE and Quest Diagnostics for €7.5m earlier this year, was also mentioned in court. 

The case was back in court to deal with further money from her settlement to be lodged in court. Her Senior Counsel, Patrick Treacy, said it was "desirable and necessary" that Ms Mhic Mhathúna should be in court as the case involved her "very significant" concerns about the future of her five children.

But he said she was not in a position to be in court today and the case was adjourned to 16 October.