Following an uneventful pregnancy, Charlie's* mother was admitted to the hospital for a water birth. Midwife records suggest no problems during the labour but, when he was delivered, Charlie was not breathing and needed emergency resuscitation.
Charlie developed seizures shortly after birth and was cooled and transferred to St Peter's Hospital neonatal unit in Chertsey for treatment of severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy with seizures. He was subsequently diagnosed as having severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and developmental delay.
The hospital's internal investigation failed to provide answers for Charlie's family as to the cause of his brain injury and his mother instructed Fieldfisher to investigate. Expert reports were obtained from an obstetrician, a midwifery expert, a neuroradiologist and a paediatric neurologist to prepare a claim on Charlie's behalf for a short period of hypoxia shortly before his birth and a delay in resuscitating him after his birth.
The claim was complicated by the lack of accurate medical records making it difficult to prove with certainty when the insult to Charlie's brain began. However, the experts were clear that Charlie should have been delivered earlier and that delays in resuscitation also contributed to the development of his brain injury.
The defendant Trust accepted that the measurements by midwives of the fetal heartrate could not have been correct prior to Charlie's birth, but denied that his injuries were caused by negligence. The defendant did accept that he had sustained an acute near total hypoxic ischemic insult during the last few minutes of labour and the first few minutes of the neonatal period but that the probable mechanism was total cord occlusion as the head descended the birth canal.
The Trust maintained that Charlie had already sustained a damaging period of hypoxia before the injury could have been recognised and therefore, even with appropriate care, his injury could not have been avoided.
Following the Trust's denial of liability, proceedings were issued and an anonymity order obtained. Following consideration of witness evidence from Charlie's parents and the midwives involved in his care, the parties agreed to a Round Table Settlement meeting at which Charlie's claim settled for a substantial lump sum payment plus annual periodical payments for life. It is estimated that when capitalised, the settlement is more than £10m.
Charlie depends on others for all aspects of his life and his life expectancy is significantly reduced by his injuries. Settlement will enable Charlie's parents who, until now have cared for Charlie on their own, to purchase suitable accommodation, and to fund his future care, therapy, accommodation and equipment needs.
Following settlement, they said:
"The events of our son’s birth have changed our lives forever. Our beautiful boy will not have the life experiences that he should have and the journey we have had to go through as a family is challenging. Deborah and the team have been compassionate and understanding whilst remaining professional. Throughout every stage of the process, Deborah and the team have kept us up to date with regular communication. Everything has been clearly explained so we fully understand the process and potential outcomes.
"No amount of money will ever take away the pain, however the settlement that Deborah and the team have been able to secure for Charlie will ensure that he has everything he needs to have a quality life. We will be able to be parents as opposed to carers and most importantly be able to enjoy life as a family. For this we will be eternally grateful."
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