Medical Negligence

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Woman brain damaged at birth awarded £1.75m

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A young woman from Cumbria is set to receive a £1.75m lump sum in damages, after suing the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust for medical negligence

Medics failed to spot that the baby was being starved of oxygen


In 2000, a young woman, whose identity remains confidential, was starved of oxygen during the course of her birth. At the midwifery unit in Penrith Hospital, medics failed to spot the difficulties the infant was under. Consequently, her brain was deprived of vital oxygen, which resulted in her suffering cerebral palsy. 

Cerebral palsy is the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect coordination and movement. It results from problems in parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling muscles, with the condition occurring if the brain develops abnormally or if it suffers damage before, during or shortly after birth. It is estimated that around 1 in 400 people in the UK are affected. Symptoms of cerebral palsy include muscle stiffness or floppiness, random and uncontrolled body movements and balance and coordination problems.

Due to the length of time the baby’s brain wasn’t receiving oxygen, the woman - now 15-years-old - suffers to such a degree that she cannot walk “more than 100 yards before encountering difficulty”. Mr Justice Jay, who was hearing the case in London’s High Court, said the birth injuries have had a 'profound and devastating effect over the years'. 

The North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, the trust responsible for the Penrith maternity unit, agreed to settle the case in court on the basis of 80% liability. A financial settlement was reached, with the teenager set to receive a £1.75m lump sum payment, to help pay for adjustments to her home to aid her day-to-day life. She will also receive index-linked and tax-free annual payments to cover care costs for the rest of her life. These payments will start at £20,000 a year before rising to £45,000 a year from the age of 22 onwards, to reflect the increase in her needs.

Mr Justice Jay gave his “wholehearted” approval to the settlement offered, with £50,000 also awarded to the young woman’s parents for the “considerable sacrifice” they’ve made over the years. The girl was described in court as a “splendid young lady who has made the absolute best of what life has thrown at her" and a “real credit to her parents”.

36-year-old wins damages after infected epidural led to water on her brain

Meanwhile, a woman from Leeds has won the right to compensation, after being given a contaminated epidural while under NHS care.

In 2004, Kara Rayner, 36, was taken to Kent’s Medway Maritime Hospital to give birth to her third child. The then 24-year-old was given an epidural to relieve her pain. However, Ms Rayner claims that the injection almost instantly left her without sensation in her legs, with an agonizing pain rushing up from her spine and into her head. 

She successfully gave birth but was readmitted to hospital just three weeks later. It was discovered she was suffering from hydrocephalus – a buildup of fluid on the brain. The fluid puts pressure on the brain, which if left untreated can cause significant damage – or even prove fatal. Symptoms of the condition include headaches, being sick, difficulty walking and blurred vision. 

Ms Rayner underwent emergency surgery to drain the fluid but has since suffered with an inflammation affecting the brain and spinal cord, which is now being attributed to the epidural, with allegations that it was contaminated with an antiseptic called chlorexidine. 

Despite her symptoms, it was not until August 2014 that Ms Rayner issued a damages claim. Arguing in front of the High Court, Ms Rayner states it was only in 2014 that an expert suggested that the epidural was likely to have been the root of her problems. She told the court she “immediately knew something was wrong” when she was given the injection and “began to panic”. 

The Medway NHS Foundation Trust has denied liability and stated that Ms Rayner is out of time in bringing a claim, as the normal time limit for medical negligence cases is three years. 

Hearing the case, High Court judge Mr Justice Wilkie has determined that Ms Rayner should not be barred from pursuing her claim because of the time that has passed. He said it would be wrong to prevent her from seeking justice for the disabilities she now suffers. While no date has been set for a full hearing, the preliminary ruling gives Ms Rayner the opportunity to seek significant damages.

How to obtain a compensation payout for hospital negligence during childbirth and care of a baby

If you want to enquire about making a compensation claim for negligence associated with pregnancy, child-birth and maternity care, please contact one of our maternity and childbirth claims solicitors  on 0333 123 9099 . Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the medical negligence and the injuries sustained to and one of our team will be able to help you.

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