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Case Study

Wrong incubator settings caused brain damage at Greenwich Hospital

We pursued a paediatrics negligence claim for Thomas who suffered brain damage at Greenwich Hospital because the settings in his incubator were wrong. The claim settled just before trial for £2.25 million.

Thomas was born at the Greenwich Hospital on 16 December 1992 at 30 weeks gestation. Although 10 weeks premature, his weight was good and his head circumference was above the 97th percentile.

In accordance with responsible practice, Thomas was electively incubated and transferred to the special care baby unit.

Subsequently, Thomas developed severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy sustained as a result of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which is the death of brain tissue.

Our expert evidence indicated that the PVL occurred as a result of hypocarbia, a deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood.

Our evidence indicated that Thomas' blood gases should have been analysed on the evening of the day of his birth. In fact, such an analysis took place at around midnight and indicated that Thomas was at risk of hypocarbia.

Instead of accepting the results, the registrar decided that there was a mechanical fault in the ventilator. Accordingly, the ventilator settings were not reduced and resulted in Thomas being exposed to excessive amounts of oxygen and diminished carbon monoxide for a period of over 9 hours.

Paul McNeil was instructed by Thomas' parents initially to pursue a claim in relation to the obstetric management.

But further investigations revealed the potential claim in relation to the paediatric management of the ventilation settings.

Proceedings were issued in January 2000 and initially the claim was defended both on breach of duty and causation. Ultimately, negligence was conceded (in relation to the later allegation) but there remained considerable difficulties on causation i.e. precisely when the PVL occurred.

The trial was fixed for 29 January 2001 with an estimated time of three weeks. On 25 January, the defendant agreed to settle the claim for £2.25 million together with an indemnity against any private educational costs limited to £120,000.

Contact us

For further information about paediatrics negligence claims and clinical negligence claims, please call Paul McNeil on 020 7861 4019 or email


All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win, no fee.

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