Medical Negligence Birth claim – oxygen starvation leading to cerebral palsy

Posted on: August 8th, 2016

Sue Bowler and Douglas Miller of Coffin Mew’s Clinical Negligence team acted for Richard in respect of medical negligence at birth, resulting in Richard requiring life-long care.

Richard was born in 2002 and his mother had an uneventful pregnancy but went into labour at just under 27 weeks, over 9 weeks early.  Richard’s delivery was negligently managed by the hospital and as a result his brain was starved of oxygen during his delivery and he sustained significant injuries as a result of cerebral palsy. A claim was brought against the NHS Trust responsible for the hospital where Richard was born.

Legal Issues

To succeed with the claim we needed to prove that the medical care provided to Richard and his mother fell below the reasonable standard of care that could be expected at the time. After investigating the claim with assistance from experts in the fields of Midwifery and obstetrics who could review Richard’s case and advise what the hospital should have done, Douglas Miller from Coffin Mew eventually managed to persuade the NHS to admit that the delivery was managed in a manner which fell below the reasonable standard that can be expected at a hospital. Richard’s delivery was delayed and a Caesarian section should have been performed. It was also admitted by the NHS that the poor management caused all of Richard’s injuries and if the delivery had been managed properly then he would have been completely healthy.

Richard’s disabilities caused by cerebral palsy

Richard is a profoundly disabled child, with both physical and mental disabilities in the form of cerebral palsy. He is wheelchair bound, cannot stand or walk and is completely dependent on others. At the age of 10 Richard functioned intellectually like a 1-2 year old.  As an adult he will never be able to be in employment.  Richard cannot take food or drink by mouth and is fed through a tube into his stomach.  He is doubly incontinent, has poor vision and behavioural problems, together with problems with his back, hands, hips and feet. The evidence suggests that Richard has a life expectancy of somewhere in his mid 30s.

In order to value Richard’s claim Sue Bowler and Douglas Miller form Coffin Mew obtained expert reports from a Paediatrician, an Occupational Therapist, a Physiotherapist, a Speech and Language Therapist, an Architect, an Assistive Technology expert, an Educational Psychologist, a Respiratory Physician, an Orthotist, an Orthopaedic Surgeon and an expert in life expectancy. All of these experts set out what they believed he would need in the future.

Settlement

Richard’s claim was settled out of Court on the following terms and approved by the High Court:

  • A lump sum of £2,030,000
  • Annual payments of £150,000 until age 19 and then £235,000 from age 19 for life

This is equivalent to a settlement on a purely lump sum basis of just under £6,000,000.

The advantage of the annual payments is that these will continue even if Richard outlives his life expectancy. These annual payments cover care for the rest of Richard’s life and costs connected with the Court of Protection.

The lump sum included expenses already incurred for things such as travel, care, equipment and Court of Protection costs, It also included future costs such as the cost of a wheelchair adapted home, specialist equipment, therapies, technology and the extra cost of travel and holidays.

After settlement

The Court of Protection has control of Richard’s financial affairs because he will lack capacity to deal with this himself when he reaches the age of 18. Sue Bowler, brain injury expert at Coffin Mew, is acting as Richard’s Court of Protection Deputy in order to access and administer the funds that are available to pay for things such as his care, equipment and the purchase and adaptation of a house for Richard.

Coffin Mew are specialist lawyers and experts at investigating the most complex medical negligence cases, especially birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.  Please contact Sue Bowler or Douglas Miller today for further advice.