Dermot suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the negligence of the obstetric team at St Peter’s Hospital in Ashford which left him with very severe disabilities including quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, visual impairment and developmental delay. He has very significant care needs and is totally dependent on others.
He was born on 9 June 2006. An internal inquiry by a leading obstetrician at the hospital confirmed that there had been an abnormal foetal heart at least 12 hours before Dermot’s birth. This had not been recognised or acted upon by the midwives or obstetricians.
In early 2007 Dermot’s mother contacted Paul McNeil and we wrote to the hospital seeking an admission of liability on the basis of the internal report. Unsurprisingly, there was no response from the Defendant and we instructed experts in obstetrics, neonatology and neuro-radiology to report on the issues of breach of duty of care and causation of injury. We received positive supportive reports. At that time Dermot and his family were living in wholly unsuitable accommodation in which full-time care was being given by his parents who were under considerable stress. The situation was exasperated by the delay of the Defendants in dealing with the claim.
We requested an interim payment to cover ongoing care and housing costs which was refused. The local Social Services were of little help.
To expedite we therefore obtained reports from care and accommodation experts. In July 2008 the Defendants formally admitted that Dermot should have been born approximately 12 hours earlier but continued to deny that such earlier delivery would have altered Dermot’s condition.
Accordingly proceedings were issued on 9 July 2008 and immediately an application was made for a very substantial interim payment. We understood that as a result we would be required to disclose (unusually) all our expert evidence “up front”.
At a hearing in October 2008 a Judge ordered that the Defendant do serve an amended Defence explaining the reasons for its causation stance. The Defendant did not amend its Defence. Instead by letter dated 15 December 2008 the Defendant agreed to Judgment being entered and an interim payment being made in the sum of £850,000.
The initial interim payment was immediately utilised to provide case management and care services so that the burden on the parents could be reduced. The family moved to rented accommodation (which was larger than their existing property) and began the long search for suitable accommodation which could be adapted to the needs of Dermot, his family and his carers. After a false start, a suitable property was found in June 2009 and works began to make the property suitable after the family had instructed their own architect and quantity surveyor. Further substantial interim payments were made to fund the cost of the work, the rental of the alternative property (whilst the work was being carried out) and the provision of care. In addition, a vehicle was purchased for Dermot and funds were released to undertake a gastroscopy and obtain advice in relation to Dermot’s epilepsy. Dermot and his family were able to move into the property in March 2011.
In the meantime the legal case was proceeding towards an Assessment of Damages with the Hearing fixed for 3 October 2011 (our experts had advised that in order to be sure about Dermot’s life expectancy he needed to be aged five or more). The negotiations between the parties were unusually fraught with two settlement meetings failing to resolve the issues.
Eventually the Defendants agreed to a settlement of a lump sum of £2,640,000 and annual payments for care and case management. On a capitalised basis and on an agreed life expectancy to age 31 years the settlement amounted to just under £7million. After the case, Dermot’s mother told us that:
"My strong view was that the Defendants took every opportunity to try and delay settlement and make interim payments. This put enormous strain on our family. Paul was always one step ahead and did everything he could to ensure that funding was obtained and that our lives were returned to near normal as quickly as possible. We are very grateful to him and our barristers."
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