Sam Critchley secured a settlement of around £10m for a boy who has cerebral palsy as a result of Kernicterus. Kernicterus is a type of brain injury caused by the build-up of very high levels of bilirubin in the baby's blood, which can cross the blood/brain barrier. This can happen when neonatal jaundice is not treated properly.
Dexter* was born at 37 weeks gestation at West Middlesex University Hospital. He seemed to be doing well and he was discharged home the day following his birth. At his first home visit by the community midwife, jaundice was noted and again on the second day at home by a maternity support worker.
Dexter became increasingly jaundiced and sleepy and his mother took him to A&E on the third day following discharge. He was admitted to special care. His blood showed a very high level of bilirubin and a blood exchange was organised. As a result of the jaundice being left untreated, there was a build-up of bilirubin in the blood which led to hyperbilirubinaemia. Dexter suffered a very severe injury to his brain and hearing loss. The injury was so severe that Dexter is only expected to live into his 20s.
We obtained supportive expert evidence and put forward a claim that when the jaundice was identified, there was a failure to advise Dexter's parents comprehensibly (English is not their first language) that there was a risk their baby would develop significant jaundice and a build-up of bilirubin in the blood. The parents were not told what to look out for or when to ask for help.
Given that Dexter was jaundiced, there was a failure to investigate or arrange for testing of the level of bilirubin in accordance with NICE Neonatal jaundice guidelines. We argued that it was a to rely on a visual inspection of the jaundice which led to it being categorised as 'mild'. There should have been a blood test. NICE Guidelines specifically state: 'Do not rely on visual inspection alone to estimate the bilirubin level in a baby with jaundice.'
The Claimant’s mother was negligently advised to use natural sunlight and regular feeds - a practice that contravened NICE guidelines. Had the healthcare professionals acted with competent care, the bilirubin level would have been tested resulting in monitoring and commencement of phototherapy treatment, which would have resolved the jaundice.
We were able to secure an early admission from the Defendant which accepted that had Dexter had 'timely assessment and treatment of his jaundice, on the balance of probabilities all neurological injury would have been avoided'.
At a settlement meeting, approximately £10m was agreed. This was split into a lump sum of £4.67m and annual payment for the rest of Dexter's life ranging from £300,000 to £350,000 to pay for his ongoing care and therapy needs.
At the settlement hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, the Judge praised the parents and said: 'Their love for him is unstinting. They are utterly devoted to him and care for him beautifully.'
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