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Post-Natal Jaundice Victim, Aged 7, Receives Justice

Clinical negligence claims involving children are always tragic and, in every such case, it is a lawyer's duty to ensure that fair damages are paid. That goal was certainly achieved in the case of a seven-year-old girl for whom a bout of jaundice soon after her birth spelt a lifetime of acute disability.

The girl was born in good health but became jaundiced after she and her mother were discharged home. Her condition was not properly investigated by community midwives and it developed into kernicterus, a complication of uncontrolled jaundice. Excessive levels of bilirubin in her blood caused devastating damage to her brain.

As a result, she cannot speak and is afflicted by profound learning difficulties. Her hearing is impaired, she cannot sit and she has no meaningful use of her hands. She endures uncontrolled dyskinetic movements and has experienced skeletal complications. Her life expectancy was agreed to be about 32.

After action was taken on the girl's behalf, the NHS trust that bore responsibility for her care admitted liability in full for her injuries. Following further negotiations, the trust agreed to a final settlement of her clinical negligence claim, whereby she will receive a lump sum of £4,308,700.

She will, in addition, receive annual, index-linked payments to cover the costs of her care for life. Those periodical payments will start at £156,640 a year before rising to £231,330 a year when she reaches the age of 11. At the age of 19, they will rise again to £312,738 a year. The payments were stepped in order to take account of the likely increase in her care needs as she grows older.

The trust's lawyers apologised unreservedly on its behalf for the substandard care that caused the girl's injuries. No amount of money could ever fully compensate for what she had lost, but the trust hoped that the settlement would bring peace of mind to her committed and devoted parents. The High Court approved the settlement and agreed that the girl's parents should receive £69,237 of the overall damages as some reflection of their tireless care for their daughter.