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Case Study

Court approve liability settlement in cerebral palsy claim against Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

Mark Bowman was instructed by the parents of A in a medical negligence claim due to the circumstances of his birth at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in January 2007. As a result of the circumstances of his birth A suffers from severe disabilities, in particular brain damage due to oxygen deprivation around the time of his birth which has resulted in him suffering from cerebral palsy.

A's mother suffered from recurrent high blood pressure throughout her pregnancy. Late in the evening of the day prior to delivery she noticed reduced fetal movements. Despite telephone re-assurance to the contrary, she attended hospital the following morning. A CTG trace which measures a baby's heart rate and a mother's contractions, was started once she arrived in hospital and was immediately very concerning as it revealed very little variability and no accelerations. Despite arriving at hospital at 10:50, baby A was not born, via Caesarean Section until 13:28. He required resuscitation and a heartbeat was not established for 5 minutes.

Expert evidence was obtained from experts in the fields of midwifery and obstetrics. The advice from the first obstetric expert instructed was negative but a second expert was instructed who was supportive of a claim. It was felt that whilst the hospital had to ensure that A's mother's blood pressure was stable prior to delivery being achieved, it was alleged on A's behalf that there were unacceptable delays in delivering him, and that delivery should have been achieved by around 12:20, a saving of just over an hour. Further expert evidence was obtained from an expert neuroradiologist, who reviewed the MRI scans of A's head and confirmed that it was his opinion that the damage to A was sustained at some point prior to and close to his delivery.

It was therefore necessary to prove when the damage to A was sustained and experts in the fields of neonatology and paediatric neurology were instructed. Two negative reports were received from separate paediatric neurologists before a third expert, along with the neonatologist instructed, agreed that had A been born at or around 12:20 he would have had a much better outcome, potentially avoiding all, if not a substantial amount of the damage that was sustained.

After spending over 7 years in investigating the case and finding experts that were able to support the claim, Court proceedings were issued in February 2015. Liability was strenuously denied by the hospital who throughout the claim denied that there was a delay in A's delivery, and even if he had been delivered earlier, A would have ended up with the same injuries. They argued that the damage to his brain had commenced in the period prior to his mother's admission to hospital, and in particular from before she noticed reduced fetal movements. Whilst the hospital admitted that the damaging event would have continued until A was resuscitated, they claimed that any damage that took place following admission to hospital  was inconsequential.

Expert reports were exchanged with the hospital and following expert meetings a settlement meeting took place in October 2016, at which a 50/50 split on liability was agreed. The terms of the agreement were approved at an infant approval hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in November 2016. An interim payment of £200,000 has now been awarded to A and his claim will now be quantified with assistance from a number of experts and a case manager to ensure that he receives the best possible treatment.

Following the settlement being approved by the Court, A's parents commented:

"Mark Bowman and his team have been brilliant and worked tirelessly on our son’s case. Mark explained every step and his attention to detail is excellent. At all times we felt as though we had the best team possible fighting for our son and supporting us. We knew this would be a long and complex process during which no stone was left unturned. Whilst nothing can change what has happened securing our son’s future means we can finally focus our attention on being parents first and foremost . Our heartfelt thanks go to Mark Bowman, Lizanne Gumbel and Henry Witcomb."

Contact us

For further information about cerebral palsy claims and medical negligence claims, please call Mark Bowman on 020 7861 4043 or email mark.bowman@fieldfisher.com.

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