Admission of liability for young boy with severe brain injury due to kernicterus

Boyes Turner’s brain-injury lawyers have secured an admission of liability for a six year old boy. Our client has severe neurodevelopmental impairment resulting from kernicterus, a condition related to jaundice which leads to brain damage, and was caused by the defendant hospital’s failure to monitor and control his excessively high levels of bilirubin in the week immediately following his birth.

After an unexpected home birth our client was taken to hospital where he was noted to be healthy and breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are at higher risk of developing neonatal jaundice, a fact recognised by both the RCOG and NICE Guidelines which set standards of care for identifying and treating jaundice.  

Two days after the birth, the parents pointed out to the visiting midwife that the baby was yellow around his cheeks. The midwife noted that the baby was breast feeding and was slightly jaundiced and that she would review the jaundice two days later. Instead of giving the parents advice as to how to monitor the jaundice or what to do if it worsened, she reassured them that there was no cause for concern.

The yellow colour increased the next day and by the time the midwife visited on the afternoon of the fourth day the baby was drowsy, lethargic and feeding less than before. The parents pointed out again that the baby was yellow and the midwife noted he had jaundice including his sclera (the whites of the eye). Given his condition, the midwife should have arranged for the baby’s serum bilirubin levels to be tested. If she had done so, the rising bilirubin level would have been treated with phototherapy and possibly an exchange transfusion and the baby’s brain injury would have been avoided. Instead, the midwife reassured the parents, as did a nurse at the hospital when the parents telephoned later the same day. When the midwife visited the following afternoon, the parents reported that the baby was difficult to wake and too drowsy to feed.  At the parents’ suggestion the midwife made a routine (non-urgent) referral to the paediatricians, noting that the baby was glowing, orange in colour with yellow sclera possibly worse than yesterday but she was only referring because the parents were anxious.

The parents took the baby to hospital where the paediatrician assessed him as severely jaundiced. Bilirubin levels were excessively high and continued to rise after treatment with bili-blanket and phototherapy. The baby suffered apnoeic episodes and oxygen desaturations and was taken to ITU to be ventilated. He later underwent an exchange transfusion and phototherapy which gradually brought the bilirubin levels under control but an MRI scan later revealed that he had suffered permanent brain damage from kernicterus.

As a result of his brain injury our client has four limb dystonia, intellectual impairment and problems with communication and feeding. His life expectation is significantly reduced.

Boyes Turner’s specialist brain injury lawyers pursued the claim and secured an admission of liability from the defendant hospital. We are now arranging to enter judgment and applying for an interim payment to meet our client’s urgent needs, whilst we work with our experts and the family to value the claim.

Knowledgeable, organised, responsive, diligent, empathetic and human. I deal with many legal firms during the course of my work and have found the Court of Protection team at Boyes Turner to be, 'Simply the best'.

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