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Court of Appeal clarification sought on right to anonymity

Mark Bowman
14/01/2014
We acted for K, a child who suffered catastrophic brain damage at the time of her birth in 2007. Due to a delay by the midwife in recognising signs of fetal distress, K suffered from a lack of oxygen in the lead up to her birth, resulting in her suffering from quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Mark Bowman, Partner in our Medical Negligence team, was instructed back in 2008, and an admission of liability was obtained in 2010. Over the past three years efforts were made to quantify the claim, and on 04 December 2013, just 5 days before a 7 day trial was due to commence in the High Court, we were able to agree a substantial settlement for K. K will receive a lump sum of £3,267,490. In addition, to pay for her complex care needs (she requires two carers, 24 hours per day) she will receive yearly payments of £267,000 until she reaches the age of 18, and further yearly payments of £296,550 from age 18 for the rest of her life.

The award was approved by Mr Justice Tugendhat in the High Court on 10 December 2013. There was however a twist in the tail. The family had requested that the terms of settlement be subject to an anonymity order in order to protect K from unwanted attention and intrusion into her personal affairs. The Judge agreed that K's address should be redacted from any order, so as to ensure it was not in the public knowledge, but held that there was public interest in K's name being disclosed. K's family have immediately appealed and we expect to have a hearing date in the Court of Appeal in the Summer or Autumn of 2014.

Mark's view on the above is as follows

"This is potentially a hugely significant case. The law on anonymity in such cases is currently unclear and in need of Court of Appeal authority. It is astounding that the Judge believed that there was public interest in knowing the identity of my client. Surely the public interest lies in knowing that a child was catastrophically injured at Darent Valley Hospital, that liability was admitted and that the hospital have had to pay out a huge sum in compensation. Disclosure of my client's name adds nothing to the story but would mean that my client and her family are subject to unwanted attention at a time when they hoped they had finally put behind them the events that led to their daughter being born disabled. It is expected that the Court of Appeal will grant anonymity in this case. Whilst it is unfortunate that my clients are effectively being used as guinea pigs, it gives us the opportunity to ensure that future families have the right to seek anonymity at the end of their cases to protect the interests of their injured child."

Please contact Mark Bowman if you would like to discuss a medical negligence claim.

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