£7.4m settlement for child with severe cerebral palsy after hospital sent her mother home in labour

Boyes Turner’s cerebral palsy lawyers have secured a settlement of over £7.4 million* for a young girl who suffered a brain injury, causing cerebral palsy of the utmost severity, after hospital staff negligently assessed her mother as low risk and sent her home in labour. If she had been medically reviewed in hospital, correct treatment would have avoided delays in delivery and most or all of the child’s devastating disability.  

Our client’s mother’s pregnancy had been assessed as low risk and suitable for midwife-led care. On the evening before her planned induction of labour, she attended the hospital’s triage unit with frequent, painful contractions. Her cervix was found to be 1.5cm dilated and the fetal (unborn baby’s) heart-rate was normal. However, she was found to have ketones and protein in her urine. This was an abnormal sign which should have led to reassessment of her risk and transfer to a consultant-led ante-natal unit for medical review. Instead, despite her request to stay in hospital, she was told to go home for the night. On the way home she felt the urge to push and then at home her waters broke.  Her partner called for an ambulance and she was taken back to hospital, where the baby was delivered.

The baby needed resuscitation at birth, and was then taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for cooling. She had fits (seizures) and was fed via a nasogastric tube. An MRI brain scan later revealed that her brain had been injured by a period of chronic partial asphyxia (oxygen deprivation) followed by acute profound asphyxia from around ten minutes before birth until five minutes of age.

She now has severe spastic/dyskinetic cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe visual impairment. She is fed by gastrostomy and can only communicate by smiling or crying. She will be totally dependent on others throughout her shortened life.

Making a claim

The child’s family asked us to help them make a claim for compensation. Our investigations suggested that the child’s condition was caused by negligent maternity care. We sent a letter of claim to the hospital on the basis that correct treatment in hospital would have led to earlier delivery, avoiding all or most of our client’s severe disability.

The hospital admitted that its staff were negligent in sending our client’s mother home but denied that correct treatment would have avoided the child’s severe disability. It was of utmost importance that our client received compensation to provide for her lifelong need for extensive care. However, the medical experts for each party disagreed about whether our client would have suffered most or all of her disability even without the negligent treatment and resulting delays in delivery. This meant that her compensation depended on a judge’s decision about the order and timing of events in hospital if her mother had not been sent home and whether any negligent delay caused our client’s injury.

We negotiated an 80% liability (fault) settlement and judgment, guaranteeing substantial compensation for our client.  We secured interim (advance) payments of £1.25 million whilst we prepared for final settlement. This allowed us to appoint a case manager and help the family move into more suitable accommodation, pay for therapies, additional transport and mobility aids, and specialist equipment, including a specialised bed and sleep system.

Despite the NHS legal team's unnecessarily insensitive approach to the valuation of our client's claim, a final settlement was reached at a round table meeting six months before trial. The settlement provides our client with a lump sum of just over £3 million, and guaranteed, lifelong, annual payments (PPO) rising to nearly £264,000 per year to pay for her care for the rest of her shortened life.

Our client’s compensation is protected by Court of Protection deputyship. Her own and her family’s privacy are protected by an anonymity order.  

* capitalised equivalent

If you are caring for a child or young adult with cerebral palsy or neurological disability caused by medical negligence you can talk to one of our solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about making a claim by contacting us here.

I try to assist lawyers by explaining, in clear and comprehensible terms, what the relevant issues are and where the strengths and weaknesses of the case lie.

DR PETER DEAR

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