Multi million pound settlement for 9 year old cerebral palsy sufferer

AA was a healthy baby born to her delighted parents and 3 siblings in 2005. At 6 months she was making noises and playing with her hands. She would hold onto her toys and reach for things as she was expected to. When she became unwell and was not herself her mother recognised this and took her to a local hospital. As well as vomiting, AA’s mother reported that she had seen blood in her daughter’s nappies however the examining doctor remarked AA to be “well” and diagnosed viral diarrhoea before sending her home.

Within 20 hours, when AA was seen again, she was so severely dehydrated with respiratory and circulatory failure (and renal failure) she required resuscitation. However, during the course of this she developed brain damage as a result of insufficient blood and therefore oxygen getting to the brain. She was discharged home after 18 days but it was not until sometime later that the extent of the severe brain damage she had suffered was realised.

Now aged 9, AA suffers from cerebral palsy, severe learning difficulties and epilepsy. She has very little function in any of her limbs and it is unlikely that she will regain any meaningful mobility. She has severe cognitive impairment and severe learning disability. She has no speech or communication (although her mother and siblings intuitively understand her) and she will always need 24 hour care and supervision.

Armstrong Foulkes were instructed by AA’s family to investigate the standard of the treatment given to AA when she first attended hospital. We instructed an independent expert in A&E medicine to consider the decision to send AA home. He was of the view that it was substandard. The doctor who saw AA had not taken adequate information from her mother and did not give enough notice of her concerns or to the symptoms she described as having seen.

The doctor failed to consider AA’s rapid pulse and did not appear to appreciate how quickly a child with an illness like this could quickly deteriorate and become very dehydrated. He made no attempt to describe AA’s proper condition in terms of hydration and circulation and he should certainly not have described AA as “well” when there was nothing to support this.

Many other observations which should have been carried out were not. Very simply, the examination and assessment that was carried out did not take into account the abnormalities that were observed and recorded and did not demonstrate that AA was well enough to be sent home when instead she should have been referred to a specialist paediatrician.

We then instructed an independent Paediatrician to consider what difference the failure to refer AA to a Paediatrician a day earlier made. He was able to say that referral to a paediatrician would have led to an admission during which AA would have been given intravenous fluids early on when it became clear that she was not getting better. This would have prevented the degree of dehydration which evidently occurred and the brain damaging event.

In 2008 we were able to formally approach the NHS Trust which is responsible for the hospital with the results of our investigations. A full admission of liability and causation was received to the relief of this devastated family.

In a case such as this involving a very young child with such catastrophic injuries it is almost impossible to form a realistic view on the level of compensation that will be suitable until they are much older, perhaps 7 or 8. By this age medical experts can usually give an opinion about the extent of the injuries and how they will affect the child in the future.

Some things were of course obvious. It was clear early on that the family home was not suitable for AA and her needs. We were therefore able to secure a seven figure early payment of compensation to purchase suitable alternative accommodation that could be adapted for AA’s disability needs and also to begin putting in place professional carers and physiotherapists to assist the family.

Over the years AA was seen by many medical experts instructed by us and by the solicitors acting for the hospital including Paediatric and Neurology experts, care and occupational therapy experts, physiotherapists, educational psychologists, assistive technology experts, speech and language therapy experts and accommodation experts. All of this was in order to support the claim we would put forward on her behalf but also to support the alternative position put forward by those acting for the hospital.

In 2014 AA had been seen by all the necessary experts and at age 8 we had a good idea as to what needs she would have for the rest of her life. In order to negotiate a compensation settlement the parties exchanged their medical evidence and full detailed explanations of the various financial claims we had worked out she would need.

Both parties had valued AA’s claim very differently. The expert we instructed estimated that AA would live into her mid 60’s whereas the expert instructed by the hospital did not expect her to live much past the age of 50. Together with other factors such as the extent of care she would need and the extent of the adaptations necessary to her new home, meant that there was an almost £6,000,000 difference in each side’s valuations.

Independent financial advice was obtained and as AA’s life expectancy was so uncertain but also not insignificant, it was felt that the best form of settlement was to have some of the compensation paid in a lump sum with the rest being paid in regular annual payments. These payments would be made to AA for the rest of her life. Whether she lives to the age of 60 or 100, these agreed annual payments will be made to her each year to ensure that her compensation does not run out and that she has sufficient funds to pay for her care, therapies and other expenses associated with her disability.

Three weeks before a week-long trial was due to take place, a settlement was agreed and approved at the High Court. Should AA live as long as our expert anticipates then she will have recovered over £14,000,000 in compensation for her life changing injuries.

No amount of money will ever compensate AA or her family for what they each lost on that fateful day however by seeking appropriate legal advice AA’s family have ensured that their daughter’s needs are met now and in the future and she will receive the proper care and attention she needs for life.

At Armstrong Foulkes we have experience in handling all types of clinical negligence claims involving all types of injuries. From those which are small and minor with no lasting effect to those which are devastating and life altering and serve as daily reminders of the avoidable mistake made in your treatment or care, we can advise you on whether you have a claim to pursue. It is the only type of work we do. We don’t do road traffic claims, trips or slips or accident at work claims but if you have suffered an injury as a result of what you suspect is medical negligence please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ashleigh Holt – August 2015