Girl Injured at Birth Awarded £2 Million in Damages
Clinical negligence claims can be finely balanced, with the prospect of compensation in full on the one hand and receiving nothing at all on the other. However, as a High Court case showed, lawyers are adept at steering a middle course between those two extremes and achieving the best possible outcomes for their clients.
The case concerned a five-year-old girl who suffered profound oxygen starvation and brain damage around the time of her birth. A legal claim on the girl's behalf contended that, had hospital staff proceeded straight to a caesarean section, rather than artificially rupturing her mother's membranes as a preparatory step towards a conventional delivery, she would have escaped permanent injury.
The NHS denied that negligence played any part in what happened. The decision to rupture the mother's membranes would have been supported by a substantial body of reasonable obstetricians. It was also asserted that the girl's disabilities were in part attributable to a congenital or genetic problem from which she would have suffered in any event.
Midway through the trial of the action, a £2 million lump-sum settlement of the girl's claim was negotiated. In approving that outcome, the Court noted that it was an all-or-nothing case and that, had the trial proceeded to judgment, the girl could have come away with nothing. Given the difficulties in proving her case, the settlement was wholly understandable and reasonable.