After an uncomplicated pregnancy our client's mother attended Addenbrooke’s Hospital on 22 May 2005. She was admitted and a CTG was performed to assess fetal well-being.
There were concerns about decelerations and an artificial rupture of the membranes was performed revealing meconium stained liquor. In fact, the CTG showed a pathological trace and this combined with the meconium stained liquor should have raised serious concerns.
An obstetrician was called and fetal blood sampling was undertaken after a significant delay. Moreover, the obstetrician incorrectly categorised the CTG as “suspicious” rather than “pathological”. Another fetal blood sample was ordered and unsurprisingly showed a worrying increase in acidosis. We alleged that the pathological CTG, the meconium staining and the increase in acidosis were all signs that all responsible obstetricians should have taken immediate action to deliver the baby by 15:45 hours at the latest. In fact the mother was told to start pushing and it was not until 15:37 hours that the CTG was finally recognised by the obstetric team, to be pathologically abnormal. At 15:48 hours a decision was made to perform a caesarean section and the baby was delivered at 16:45 hours with the use of forceps.
Our case was that the decision to delivery interval was too long and longer than the hospital’s own Guidelines for Fetal Monitoring in High Risk Pregnancies and Labour. We also argued that it was a mistake to try to deliver by forceps rather than proceeding directly to a caesarean section. There was very strong evidence to suggest that the hypoxic injury to the baby occurred in the last 20–25 minutes of the labour because of her condition at birth and the evidence in the MRI scans.
Unfortunately our client now suffers from choreoathetoid quadriplegic cerebral palsy with some spastic features. Physically she is significantly disabled although cognitively her intelligence has been largely spared.
Our Medical Negligence Solicitor, Paul McNeil, was instructed in late 2007 and a consultant obstetrician, a neonatologist and a neuro-radiologist were engaged to assist our investigation. The defendants denied liability arguing that all the decisions taken by the obstetric team were reasonable except for the management of the forceps delivery. They also rejected that the injuries occurred in the last 20–25 minutes of the labour. On the defendant’s case the hypoxic injury began as late as 16:41 hours. Indeed it was contended in the defence that the delivery should have been only 4 minutes earlier and that if this had occurred the resultant neurological injury in comparison to the actual outcome would have been “very small” indeed.
Eventually the case was settled on a 100% basis (notwithstanding the defendant's legal and medical arguments) in February 2011. Substantial interim payments were made to cover the costs of care, case management and therapies (in particular speech and language and physiotherapy).Fieldfisherinvestigated the value of the claim by instructing a raft of experts from an educational psychologist through to an architect. We finally produced our schedule of damages which valued the claim at over £12 million. The counter schedule amounted to a mere £5 million. However, the parties were able to discuss at a round table meeting in September 2012 and the matter was settled with the court's approval in October 2012. The settlement will allow our client to reach her fullest potential and enable her to purchase accommodation to house carers and maybe to fulfil her dream to become an Olympic dressage gold medallist!
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