By Legal Futures Associate Hudgell Solicitors
A multi-million pound damages settlement is set to be awarded to a 17-year-old boy after a High Court judge ruled in his favour and against Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, saying an obstetrician’s crucial evidence could not be relied upon.
The boy, who cannot be named, was represented by Hudgell Solicitors’ joint head of clinical negligence Chris Moore, who took the case to trial despite continued denials of any wrongdoing by the Trust over many years.
As part of the case it was alleged that an obstetrician failed to give appropriate advice to the boy’s mother in late pregnancy back in 2004, when she had been worried about reduced fetal movements and a community midwife had been concerned her baby may be in the breech position.
The mother claimed an ultrasound scan was performed when she was seen at an antenatal clinic and that she was advised her son’s head was down and he was fully engaged. She said she was told all was well, despite her expressing concern about reduced movements.
This meant she felt reassured and relaxed about continued reduced fetal movements, only returning to hospital four days later as she was concerned at not even feeling any movement when having a warm bath.
Her waters were broken but the labour failed to progress at The City Hospital in Nottingham, and her baby was eventually delivered by caesarean section. The boy suffered permanent damage from chronic partial hypoxia which resulted in asymmetric quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
The trial took place over three days in London’s High Court before Mr Justice Cotter.
An Interim payment of £500,000 was awarded, with a final compensation settlement to be agreed between the parties or determined by the court, with lawyers saying it could be as high as £20m, based on previous settlements in similar cases, and how damages awards are calculated around the needs of life-long care and support.
Mr Moore said: “This was a very significant victory at the High Court for our client and his family as this has been a long-running legal matter in which the defendant has been insistent that a judge would not rule in our favour. As such they made no offers of settling out of court at any time during the litigation process.
“The mother of our client was adamant and clear in her memory that she was scanned on that day, and that she was reassured by the obstetrician that her baby was well and that the lack of movements were not something to be concerned about.
“It was agreed by the parties that if the mother had expressed her concerns regarding reduced movements, she should have been given advice to return to the hospital, and that if such advice had been given, she would have returned and her son would have been born up to two days earlier, without neurological injury.
In considering the evidence, Mr Justice Cotter said he was satisfied the obstetrician had undertaken a scan at the clinic on the day, something she had denied.
He said he believed the boy’s mother’s account was correct as to what took place, that she did raise a concern about reduced fetal movement at the clinic and that she had established a breach of duty.
Mr Moore said he was delighted for his client and his family, who now live in East Yorkshire, having supported them for nine years, and since the boy was eight years old.
“I am delighted for my client and his family that we have secured this result after so many years of the Trust denying any error had been made. It is a huge result for them and one which could potentially be to a value of £15m to £20m,” he said.
“However, it very disappointing for a family to be made to fight so hard, and endure so many years without the help and support they deserve, when such life-changing mistakes are made.”
The full judgement can be read here