In a case that has been widely reported across the media, Fieldfisher partner and head of Serious Injury, Jill Greenfield successfully concluded an inquest on behalf of the family into the death of baby Grace Roseman. Counsel, Henry Witcomb QC, was instructed to represent the family.
Grace was seven weeks old when she died of asphyxia in April 2015, getting her head stuck over the half lowered side edge of an NCT Bednest cot. The cot, known as a bedside sleeper cot, was unique in that one side panel could be folded half way down. The cot was manufactured by Bednest and bore the NCT branding.
For the inquest, Jill had to examine all UK, European and American safety standards for bed cots. It became apparent that British and European standards did not cover bedside cots in any form. In further research, she found that US regulations - where bed cots are more commonly sold - highlighted in 2011 that there was a serious risk of a baby suffocating with a side panel in the half fold position.
In 2014 the US Regulator made it compulsory that all bedside sleeper cots with a part fold down side should warn of this risk.
As further evidence, Jill secured two paediatric experts – including a baby movement specialist – to present to the Coroner. Through testimony and videos, they proved that babies at seven weeks old had a wide range of abilities and that those at the more advanced end were are able to raise their heads sufficiently to be at risk. This was a key point in identifying the significant risk of death that the cot posed, as a baby would be able to get its head stuck over the edge of the half-folded panel. Experts instructed by Bednest had suggested that the cot was not at fault and that instead, Grace's toddler sister (then aged 2 years) had attempted to get her out of the cot, dragging her over the edge.
As a result of the Inquest, the Coroner found that allegations that Grace's two-year-old sister was involved in her death were 'unpalatable', since 'there was no evidence on which to base the proposition'. She also made it clear that the UK and European standards are not fit for purpose and that the cot, in its half fold state was a danger to babies. The Coroner re-issued her Regulation 28 notice, to Bednest and issued a new Regulation 28 notice to the Secretary of State, urging for a review of safety standards for bedside sleeper cots.
The Inquest and the Coroner's recommendations will have a vast impact on British and European standards going forward. Jill Greenfield has been asked to put forward submissions in respect of the current regulations on beside sleeper cots which are being reviewed as a result of this case.
Jill was supported by Jennifer Buchanan, Laura Penny, Claire Glasgow and Jessica Hyde. Fieldfisher's Personal Injury and Medical Negligence team is one of the leaders in its industry, and over the last 25 years it has helped thousands of people recover compensation for injuries and illnesses.
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