Following approval at the Royal Courts of Justice in November 2018, Jane Weakley has settled a long-running birth injury case for more than £30m against Barts Health NHS Trust, concerning Newham General Hospital. She was assisted by Gabriella Gooday and PA Jane Hadfield.
The Claimant, a boy now aged 14, was born in 2004 at Newham General Hospital. His mother’s labour was categorised as low risk when it should have been categorised as high risk because of the size of the baby and should have been managed by senior obstetricians.
The boy's delivery was complicated by shoulder dystocia and delays in delivery caused him to suffer a short period of near total hypoxic ischaemic injury around the time of delivery.
Following his birth, he needed vigorous resuscitation including intubation, ventilation, cardiac massage and adrenaline. He was transferred to the neonatal unit where he suffered seizures and was recognised to have hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy.
He has since been diagnosed as suffering cerebral palsy and has very severe cognitive and behavioural problems. He attends a specialist school and when at home requires two carers with him at all times. He lacks capacity to manage his own affairs and will not obtain employment.
Following the issue of proceedings in May 2009, the Trust admitted that the registrar should have been called earlier and that had the baby been delivered 10 minutes earlier, he may not have been deprived of oxygen for so long which may have prevented his permanent brain damage. The delay in delivery was admitted to be negligent.
Since admission, the Fieldfisher team has spent nearly nine years collecting expert opinion on the boy's condition and calculating a schedule of loss of more than £39m to provide care for his life expectancy of 80 years. The case was subjected to several stays of proceedings while the boy's uncertain prognosis could be properly assessed, during which time the family received interim payments to fund professional care and therapies.
The defendant served a counter-claim in October 2018 and the parties attempted to settle the case at an RTM a month before trial. Three weeks before trial, an increased offer by the defendant was accepted and on 28 November 2018, the settlement was approved by the courts.
Jane Weakley said that although the award was one of the highest of its kind, it was not a time for celebration: "The injury sustained by the boy at birth is catastrophic and has had very serious impact on him and his family.
"The settlement has been structured to ensure that funds are available to meet his complex care and behavioural needs every year of his long life ahead. The award will be managed by a professional deputy and overseen by the Court of Protection providing the claimant with security and his family with peace of mind."
The boy's mother thanked Jane and the Fieldfisher team for 'relentlessly pursuing a better future for my son'. She added:
"We are finally able to turn the page of one of the most difficult chapters in our lives. I have had to come to terms with my new reality, which has been lonely and difficult at times. But I draw strength from my son, who has taught me forgiveness, patience and resilience. My son came into this world fighting for his life and so we shall embrace the warrior he is as the journey continues.
"We can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we continue to dedicate ourselves to helping him live out the rest of his life."
Image credit: Image credit: Newham University Hospital: main entrance
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