Paul McNeil was instructed by the family of L in connection with a claim for medical negligence arising from his birth at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow on Monday, 18 May 2009. Unfortunately L now suffers from cerebral palsy caused by lack of oxygen in the Labour process. L is now three years old and he has significant physical difficulties. It is too early to establish the extent of his cognitive disability.
The circumstances of his birth were that his mother was 40 weeks pregnant and in the early stages of labour. On admission to the hospital it was confirmed that the fetus was in excellent condition. At around 2am on Monday 18 May 2009 there was a significant change in the fetal heart representing serious danger to L. This went unrecognised by the attending midwife.
The Registrar was not called until 2:25 AM. He was probably given the wrong information about the fetal condition. Instead of attending himself he sent a junior doctor who compounded the earlier mistakes by misinterpreting the fetal heart monitor. After about 2:40 AM it became apparent that the fetal heart was extremely worrying. Another midwife recognised this and called the Registrar to attend as an emergency.
The Registrar immediately recognised that the fetus was in distress and ordered a Caesarean section. L was delivered at 3:11 AM. He was in a pretty poor condition caused by the lack of oxygen to his brain which could have been avoided had the abnormal trace been recognised earlier and delivery expedited.
The hospital conducted an enquiry immediately afterwards and its findings were that there was inadequate fetal heart monitoring, that the midwife did not communicate efficiently with the Registrar, that the junior doctor had interpreted the CTG inaccurately and arrived at an inaccurate management plan. All this led to a delay in L's delivery.
Even though the enquiry was so damning the hospital did not accept legal responsibility. We were instructed in the summer of 2009 and investigated the claim on L's behalf given that the hospital had decided not to accept responsibility. Unsurprisingly we received strong support from the experts we instructed and proceedings were issued on behalf of of L and his mother on 14 March 2012. The defendants continued their stance in the legal proceedings. Princess Alexandra Hospital admitted breach of duty of care but not that the delay in delivering L caused or contributed to his disability.
A trial date on liability only was fixed for 18 March 2013. With the pressure of trial and the need to exchange expert evidence the defendants finally admitted liability and judgement was entered for damages to be assessed on 28 November 2012.
At the same time the defendants agreed to pay an initial interim payment in the sum of £150,000 which will enable the family to rent suitable accommodation in the short term and to obtain the best care and therapies which L certainly requires. In addition the defendants accepted the mother's claim for psychiatric injury and this was settled in the sum of £35,000.The matter is likely to be tried on quantum sometime after L's 5th birthday when his prognosis is better known.
After the case L's father Michael said:
"Just three years ago our son through Medical Negligence was born with the cerebral palsy We were made aware of Paul McNeil by a friend and from the first meeting with Paul he gave us all the advice we needed and reassured us that he would do all he can. Well, what Paul says - he does. It's been a long three years but made so much easier by having Paul on our side, always willing to talk on the phone to the point where he has spoken to us on his holiday. Paul and Fieldfisher are outstanding at what they do and were outstanding in winning our case. I would have no hesitation whatsoever to recommending him and his firm."
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