Moore Barlow have secured a 90% liability settlement at a “remote” video settlement meeting for “JJJ”, an eight year old girl who suffered serious neurological injury during her pre-term delivery at St. Richard’s Hospital, Chichester in 2012.
JJJ is sadly at the more severe end of the spectrum of disabilities that are seen – she has cerebral palsy with whole body involvement, microcephaly, severe global developmental delay, epilepsy and is fed via a gastrostomy. She needs 24 hour care and has a restricted life expectancy.
Analysis of her claim by Moore Barlow and supportive expert evidence led to concerns over JJJ’s delivery and neo-natal management being set out in a Letter of Claim. It was accepted that there was a period of non-negligent, “chronic partial hypoxia” due to a developing placental abruption prior to her delivery – the main liability question was should there have been an earlier delivery which would have avoided JJJ’s severe injury? The issues involved were:
- A lunchtime telephone call to the Labour Ward – there was a factual dispute as to the content of the conversation and whether JJJ’s mother should have been advised to come into hospital then, rather than being advised to wait for 2-3 hours to come in for review.
- On actual admission to hospital later that afternoon, whether appropriate interpretation of the CTG trace should have resulted in an earlier referral to an obstetrician, rather than the midwife adopting a “watch and wait” approach.
- Following eventual involvement of the consultant obstetrician, and her noted decision that JJJ should be delivered by way of an emergency, category 1 caesarean section “immediately”, and that that only one attempt should be made at spinal anaesthesia before conversion to a general anaesthetic, whether there was an unreasonable delay in making two attempts at spinal anaesthesia and delay in delivery until some 40 minutes after the decision to deliver had been taken.
- Whether, as a matter of fact, there was a period of “acute profound hypoxia”, in addition to “chronic partial hypoxia”, prior to delivery.
- Whether it was negligent to have taken 4 hours to get JJJ’s neonatal hypoglycaemia under control and whether negligent neonatal hypoglycaemia made a material contribution to JJJ’s overall injury.
In its Letter of Response, the Defendant admitted 1.5 hours negligent delay in managing JJJ’s neonatal hypoglycaemia but denied that this had any causative impact, and also denied any midwifery and/or obstetric negligence.
As overall liability was denied, formal legal proceedings were issued and served and the Court listed a “liability only” trial for hearing in June 2021.
Despite being armed with a formidable team of medical experts, the Defendant’s experts’ opinions were not as precise or detailed as we would typically have expected and formal “Part 35” questions put to the Defendant’s experts helped lead to a number of concessions which favoured JJJ’s position. However, the factual dispute and issues relating to obstetric delay and causation, and in particular neonatal causation, remained contested by the Defendant. JJJ also faced some risk in respect of the factual dispute and on the issue of causation.
At a “remote” video settlement meeting (put in place due to COVID-19 restrictions), the parties were able to agree a 90% liability settlement in JJJ’s favour, meaning that the extent of the claim will now be assessed and JJJ will receive 90% of that assessment. The compromise means there is security for JJJ and her family without the need for a trial. Moore Barlow are now taking steps to quantify her claim and recover an appropriate sum of compensation – JJJ will require re-housing and an extensive care and therapy regime for the rest of her life.
Moore Barlow also obtained an interim payment of £500,000 to provide an immediate source of funding for JJJ’s care needs prior to the definitive assessment of her claim.
I have advised JJJ and her family since Moore Barlow (then Moore Blatch) were first approached for advice on her potential claim, guiding the family through the highs and lows of pursuing a claim and keeping them closely advised of developments as the claim has progressed.
I’ve seen the dedication of her parents and the support of her loving family as JJJ has grown into a young girl who faces very extensive challenges on a daily basis. Whilst I am disappointed that the Defendant saw fit to defend this claim so hard and for so long, I am delighted that we have been able to secure the 90% liability settlement which means that we can now assess the full extent of JJJ’s care needs and ensure that she has appropriate care, therapy and housing provision throughout her lifetime. The interim payment will ensure that funds are available immediately to assist with her extensive care needs.
JJJ’s mother has been resolute throughout the litigation process, but the wave of relief on her face when we were able to secure the settlement spoke volumes. I’m now looking forward to working with the family to ensure that JJJ obtains the assistance she will need in the future.Paul Kingsley, Associate Solicitor in Moore Barlow’s clinical negligence team
Since we first asked for legal advice on behalf of our daughter, we have worked closely with Paul Kingsley who we have found to be very professional, committed, sympathetic and easy to talk to. Paul has always made sure we have fully understood each stage of the legal process, explaining everything in detail.
As a family, we are extremely grateful for Paul’s hard work and dedication. We know that the liability settlement which has been agreed is not the end of our daughter’s claim, but it does mean that we now know our daughter will get the care and support she is going to need for the rest of her life. That reassurance is priceless.JJJ’s mother