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£23m settlement for brain injured child: the cost of medical negligence - Ben Gent, Express Solicitors

28/02/19. In December 2018, the High Court approved a £23m compensation settlement for a 10-year-old boy (AC) who suffered brain damage at birth as a result of medical negligence, in what relatively superficial research1 suggests is the third largest injury settlement ever reported in this jurisdiction.

AC, whose identity is protected under an anonymity order, developed cerebral palsy after hospital staff missed signs of distress during his mother’s labour in 2008. Investigations revealed that neither the consultant obstetrician nor the midwife at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, were paying attention to the CTG trace, which recorded the pattern of AC’s heartbeat. As the trace deteriorated there was a delay in the delivery, which meant AC was deprived of oxygen for the 15 minutes before he was born.

The settlement was reached under a discount rate of -.75%, with an agreed lifetime multiplier of 882. There had been a full admission of liability and the Claimant’s challenging behaviour demanded a regime of constant supervision. Factor the efforts of a skilful and meticulous legal team3 and the value expressed as a lump sum exceeded £23m4.

Solicitors were retained in 2007 and accepted a part 36 offer in November 2018 – showing this case was a marathon rather than a sprint, and one which gave ample time for a number of subplots and legal skirmishes.

This article considers five aspects of the case.

Anonymity

It is no accident that this report appears in the legal and business pages, rather than sensationalised headlines in the red tops proclaiming lottery style pay outs. This Claimant’s privacy and freedom from intrusion is guaranteed under an anonymity order, and our view is that such applications are rarely contentious and always worth considering. The trade-off is that the reports are denied context, with nobody being able to describe how it feels to be changing a ten year old’s nappy at three in the morning, or to be told by a well-meaning head teacher that another hair-pulling incident means school exclusion for a child whose injuries permit feelings of guilt, shame and hopelessness, but have stolen away the self-control and restraint needed to regulate the impulse to lash out in the first place.

Liability

Lawyers must understand disclosure and, in this case, specific requests yielded an internal investigation report suggesting that...

Image: public domain

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