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Case Study

'Excessive force' during delivery at Darent Valley Hospital leave baby brain-damaged

Mark Bowman has successfully negotiated a hard-fought settlement of a complex case involving a young girl left with severe disabilities suffered during birth.

'Ruby', whose identity is kept anonymous, was born at the Darent Valley Hospital in Kent. Her mother had planned for a vaginal delivery but there were complications during the labour. Before deciding to eventually deliver Ruby by caesarean section, the consultant in charge of the delivery made several failed attempts to assist the vaginal delivery by manually rotating Ruby by her head, which had become deeply impacted.

Two hours after her delivery, Ruby collapsed and her care was transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit where she became stiff, unresponsive and required ventilation support. Radiological investigation showed multiple skull fractures and a large subdural haemorrhage to be the cause of her deterioration. Ruby was transferred to the specialist centre at King's College Hospital for emergency neurosurgery. Post-surgical imaging of her brain demonstrated that, despite the urgent surgery, she had suffered severe hypoxic ischaemic injury which would leave her brain damaged for life.

Mark issued proceedings against the hospital trust, alleging that the defendant doctors were negligent in their use of excessive force which had caused the damage to Ruby's skull. Due to poor note keeping by the doctors involved, the trust was unable to specify precisely how the traumatic injury occurred. Though the trust accepted that the injury to Ruby's skull had been caused during her delivery, they did not accept that the use of force was negligent nor excessive. Despite the claimant's injuries being described as more similar to those suffered during a road traffic incident than a difficult delivery labour, the trust contended that the attempted delivery was in keeping with accepted practice and techniques.

In a case in which both parties were making preparations for trial, the sides met at a round table discussion to attempt to settle the case out of court where Mark successfully argued that there were no other conditions which could have contributed to Ruby's injuries. Ultimately, the defendant conceded the point and offered to settle the case on the basis of paying 75 per cent of the damages.

Ruby's mother and litigation friend for the proceedings was happy to accept the offer on her daughter's behalf, which will provide certainty and financial stability for her going forward.

As a result of her injuries, Ruby requires a wheelchair and has no independent walking ability. She is delayed in all areas of her development, has limited communication skills and attends a specialist school to assist with her needs. While the full level of damages are assessed, a substantial up-front payment was agreed during the settlement discussions which can fund Ruby's immediate care and therapy needs.

Following settlement, Ruby's mother said: "Mark has always been extremely professional, yet friendly and approachable. He has always explained the process and outcomes to us clearly. We never felt like we were bothering him if we asked for anything to be explained again. Mark has always updated us in a timely manner, and I didn’t have to chase him for any news on our daughter's case. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him, for medico legal work."

Contact us

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

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