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RE v Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 824 (QB) - Vanessa Cashman, 12 King's Bench Walk

20/06/17. In this case, the infant claimant had suffered a brain injury during her protracted birth in 2011. She was a very large baby and suffered (the claimants argued) a shoulder dystocia, meaning that her shoulders got stuck in the birth canal. As a result of this she suffered a hypoxic insult to her brain. The two other claimants were her mother and grandmother, who sustained psychiatric injury as a result of the birth.

There was a split trial on liability for the infant claimant (quantum not being capable of being determined given the age of the claimant) and a trial of liability and causation of the psychiatric injury claims.

Breach of duty was in issue. Various aspects of causation had been agreed between the experts.

The issues

The second claimant’s waters broke on the morning of 22 April 2011. All parties had been aware in the antenatal stage that the baby was large for dates. She was in fact above the 97th centile and was predicted to weigh over 4.5kg. Labour commenced and the difficulties began at approximately 16.30 when part of the baby’s head delivered but then she got stuck. The claimants argued that there was a shoulder dystocia, which ought to have been recognised sooner both antenatally and during labour. The Trust argued that it was a “body dystocia”, which was very rare.

At this point the second claimant was on the floor, on all fours. The midwives had to get her onto the bed but by that stage it was difficult for her to move and it took some time. The midwives called for obstetric assistance and when the obstetrician arrived he applied strong traction to the baby to deliver her.

She was born at 16.53 in a flat, apnoeic state and without a heartbeat. It took the paediatric team approximately 12 or so minutes to resuscitate her. She then required three days on a cooling blanket in order to reduce the damage to her brain.

In relation to the infant claimant, the issues were whether the Trust had breached its duty in respect of...

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