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Traumatic Birth Injuries Boy Guaranteed Very Substantial Compensation

The vast majority of births occur without a hitch but, when things go wrong, personal injury lawyers are there to ensure that injured children are properly compensated. A case on point concerned the delivery of a baby boy, which was so traumatic that it would be etched on the memory of all who witnessed it.

The boy was a large baby – weighing 4.355 kilos – and his mother was petite. Efforts were made by a hospital registrar to deliver him, at first using forceps and then by a suction ventouse. However, an acute medical emergency developed after only his head emerged. His shoulder became lodged behind his mother's pelvis and the flow of blood and oxygen through his umbilical cord was interrupted.

The mother was eventually moved to an operating theatre where delivery was completed by caesarean section. By that time, however, her baby had suffered acute oxygen starvation resulting in cerebral palsy and a lifetime of severe disability. He had to be fed by gastrostomy, was unable to speak and his motor functions were severely impaired. He would always need 24-hour care.

In seeking compensation from the NHS trust that ran the hospital, it was argued on the boy's behalf that the fact that he was a large baby should have been appreciated during the ante-natal period. It was alleged that, had the mother been properly advised and given the option of an elective caesarean delivery, she would have taken it. It was also argued that the delivery was mismanaged and that the decision to go to theatre was negligently delayed. Had he been delivered just eight minutes earlier than he was, he would have been born uninjured.

The trust, however, disputed liability for the boy's injuries. It denied that there was any negligence involved in the failure to recognise in advance that he was a big baby. It submitted that a substantial body of reasonable medical practitioners would in any event have advised in favour of a spontaneous delivery and that the emergency had been competently handled.

Following negotiations, however, the trust agreed to pay 62 per cent of the full value of the boy's claim. It also made a £150,000 interim payment to tide him over until the full amount of his compensation was assessed. Given the extent of his disabilities and care needs, his eventual compensation is likely to be measured in millions of pounds even after a 38 per cent reduction.

Approving the settlement, the High Court noted that it was an all-or-nothing case and that liability for the boy's injuries remained very much in issue. The compromise fairly reflected the litigation risks involved in the case. The Court noted that the mother's witness statement made harrowing reading but hoped that she would obtain some consolation from the liability stage of the proceedings coming to an end.