Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust settle multi million pound claim for girl born with cerebral palsy at Heatherwood Hospital
On 18 March 2002, L's mother attended Heatherwood Hospital in labour. She remained under observation for just over 30 minutes following which she was reassured and discharged home. Four hours later, L's mother re-attended hospital with increasingly regular contractions. CTG tracing was commenced but no significant action was taken for over an hour, before the attending midwife requested a medical review. On review it was appreciated that the CTG trace was abnormal and therefore the consultant Obstetrician was asked to attend. The obstetrician decided an emergency C-section was required. L was born some 44 minutes later in a very poor condition and required resuscitation and transfer to Wexham Park Hospital special care baby unit where she was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from cerebral palsy.
We were instructed by L's parents in 2008. After a 7 year legal battle, and just 2 weeks before a 10 day trial at the High Court was due to commence, we were able to recover significant compensation for L in spite of the hospital denying liability throughout the claim. The hospital's case was that the damage to L occurred in the period between the two admissions to hospital. They relied on the fact that L's condition was not as bad as you would expect to see from a child who suffered a bradycardia just prior to delivery, that we could not provide evidence of a bradycardia having occurred on the CTG trace that existed and that the damage had occurred whilst L's mother was at home, and was therefore not their fault. Our case was that there had been a delay in expediting L's delivery following re-admission to hospital and that L had been damaged at the very end of the labour, just prior to her being delivered and after the CTG trace had been stopped. This is the period when the vast majority of injuries to babies occur and was supported by expert evidence obtained on behalf of the family.
Following joint expert discussions, the hospital conceded that there was a delay in calling for obstetric support during the second admission but continued to deny that it would have made any difference, as on their case the damage had already been sustained.
As a result of the damage sustained at her birth L was left catastrophically injured. L suffers from dyskinetic (involuntary movement) quadriplegic (affecting all four limbs) cerebral palsy. She is unable to stand or walk unaided and is wheelchair dependant in and outdoors, though she can walk assisted in a walking frame or being assisted by her parents holding her under her armpits. L has mild cognitive deficits but has been able to attend mainstream school, albeit with one to one support. She is aware of her surroundings, and more importantly of her disabilities and the limitations they place on her. Whilst L's vision and hearing are good, her speech is severely delayed. She hopes to one day qualify for the Paralympics as a show jumper.
It was agreed that L will require 24 hour support and assistance from carers for the rest of her life. In addition, it was agreed that L will require appropriate disability friendly single storey accommodation as well as numerous aids and pieces of equipment to help her in her everyday life. It was further agreed that L is expected to live a long life, to age 65, and therefore that she will require such assistance for a significant period of time.
Following a settlement meeting in May 2015, L was awarded a lump sum payment of £2,500,000 with annual payments to be paid to cover the cost of carers and case management for the rest of her life, starting at just over £100,000 and rising to just under £200,000 as she ages and physically deteriorates, resulting in a need for greater care and assistance. In total, she will receive close to £10,000,000 over the course of her lifetime, the vast majority of which will be used to pay for the carers that she will require every day for the rest of her life, in order to assist her in activities that we take for granted.
At the end of the case L's mother commented
"We can now look forward to our future as a family without the worry of how we will afford the equipment that L will need to reach her goals. Also I and my husband have peace of mind that L will be able to achieve as much independence as possible whilst being supported by carers. L is also happy she will not always have to be reliant on us."
The hospital, in a letter of apology addressed to L's parents commented that they "would like to offer you and your family our heart-felt apologies that L suffered injuries around the time of her birth"
L's solicitor, Mark Bowman, commented: "I am delighted that the Court has today approved the settlement reached in L's case. L is an absolutely delightful girl, who with the unwavering support of her family has made remarkable progress since the tragic circumstances of her birth in 2002. I hope that the funds that she will now have access to will open up further opportunities for her, enable her to have the specialist care and support that she requires and provide her with the best quality of life possible."
For further information, please contact:
Mark Bowman, Partner - Personal Injury and Medical Negligence, Fieldfisher on 0207 861 4043
Ibrahim Kamara, Senior Manager – Marketing and Corporate Communications, Fieldfisher on 020 7861 4120
Notes to Editor
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