Harrowells secures £20 million in brain injury case

Harrowells secures £20 million in brain injury case

York law firm Harrowells Solicitors has successfully represented a young boy who suffered irreversible brain damage at birth in his long-running case against the NHS trust responsible. 

While the boy and the NHS trust cannot be named for legal reasons, certain facts can now be made public after the parties reached a £20 million out of court settlement.

In 2012, the boy’s mother, who had a history of decreased fetal movements, went for an appointment at her local hospital. An ultrasound scan was carried out but no CTG (cardiotocography) trace was offered. She was told to return the following day for her blood pressure to be checked and induction of labour was arranged for the next day.

After she returned to hospital, the mother again complained of decreased fetal movements and a CTG was commenced for reassurance. The CTG was reviewed and had features that caused concern. At 11:30am, a decision was made to deliver by Caesarean section.

The boy was born on the same day by emergency caesarean section but scans taken shortly after birth were abnormal and consistent with brain injury caused by lack of oxygen, demonstrating seizure activity. A review three months later subsequently found that the boy had four limb motor disorder secondary to his neonatal episode.

Richard Wood, partner at Harrowells, took on the case and instructed barristers Bill Braithwaite QC and Dr Kevin Naylor from Exchange Chambers.

The hospital trust admitted fault in failing to arrange for a CTG to be undertaken and accepted that, had it been carried out, on the balance of probabilities it would have led to a planned induction of labour such that the boy would have been delivered before he suffered any irreversible brain injury. This admission was made in October 2017. 

Court proceedings were issued in 2018 and a trial was listed at the High Court in July 2020.

Before the case came to trial, settlement was achieved in May of this year, through a lump sum of £7 million, plus annual payments of £125,000 from December 2020 to December 2030, and of £175,000 from December 2031 for the remainder of the boy’s life. Based on life expectancy figures, this equates to an award of £20.25 million.

Commenting on the case, Wood said: “This settlement will transform our client’s future. It will enable a young man who suffered an irreversible brain injury at birth to live life as fully as he possibly can.”

“Our client will now have access to 24-hour care as well as all the ongoing therapy he requires. The settlement will also go towards adapting a future property so that it is suitable for him to live in, with appropriate support.”

Braithwaite added: “It’s been a real pleasure to represent this boy and his family. They have struggled long and hard, waiting five years for the admission of liability, and having to face the prospect of a trial at court until two months before the deadline.”

“They did so without much help in coping with all the many problems which arise following a catastrophic injury like this, other than through the legal process, which supported them as well as possible, and which eventually achieved this result.”

The claimant’s mother, who acted as his litigation friend in the court action, said following the settlement: “No words can describe what we have been through as a family. I’m sure other families that have experienced what we did will get it. I just hope that lessons have been learnt and hopefully when things do go wrong families won’t have to wait eight years for compensation.”

“Time is a healer but it has also been eight years of fighting for my son to get what he needs. Compensation claims for negligence during labour should be a priority so all these kids get the rehab and equipment they need straight away. Finally, the amazing legal support we have had meant everything to us—so massive gratitude to them all.”

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Mark Dugdale

Mark is the Editor of Yorkshire Legal. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk