SC (by her Mother and Litigation Friend Mrs PC) v Mid Essex Hospitals NHS Trust

Chris Bright QC and Stephen Goodfellow yesterday secured the approval of the High Court in London for a lump sum settlement of £5m in a fiercely disputed clinical negligence claim on behalf a child claimant with a severe acquired brain injury as a result of a delayed diagnosis of Group B streptococcal infection (‘GBS’) and meningitis.

SC was born at the St John’s Hospital, Chelmsford in December 2007 and readmitted overnight with poor feeding at 2½ weeks of age. Her parents were provided with a Nurse Discharge Letter with a direct telephone number and a handwritten note “For the next 24 hours if any problems please ring on the above number and can bring her back to the ward.” SC’s case was that, as her condition deteriorated overnight, her mother telephoned the ward on a number of occasions but, in breach of duty, was not advised to return to the Hospital. Unfortunately, due to the passage of time however, no telephone records were available, leaving Mrs PC reliant upon her own evidence as supported by that of her mother and, indirectly, her husband.

In the absence of such records or references to them in the clinical notes, the Trust denied that the calls were made and argued that, even if they were, advice would not have been given in the terms alleged by Mrs PC and she would have been advised to return to the Hospital. In addition, there were disputes on both factual and clinical causation as to whether and when SC would have been treated and the extent to which the outcome would have been any different.

Sadly, by the time SC was readmitted to the Hospital she had suffered a severe brain injury causing permanent neurological disability, visual impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorder, difficulties in learning and communication and severe challenging behaviours with partial epilepsy and poor motor skills. She requires support in all activities of daily living, is partially wheelchair dependent, will never work or have capacity and has a reduced life expectancy.

Initially the Trust made no offer of settlement and the matter was due to be tried in the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday with family and clinical witnesses and expert midwifery, paediatric, neonatal and infectious diseases evidence. However, at a settlement meeting in mid-September the Trust were persuaded to gradually increase their settlement offers to £5m plus litigation costs, with no restrictions on statutory funding. This represented an excellent settlement, but, more importantly, will fund SC’s care, accommodation and therapeutic needs over her lifetime. Grateful to her legal team, Mrs PC stated “I’d never forgive myself if we went to Court in the face of a multi-million pound offer which will give SC real security for the future, and came away with nothing.”

At the RCJ Mr Justice Goose made an order for anonymity and was “entirely satisfied” that the settlement was in SC’s best interests. Paying tribute to her parents, he said that it was “truly humbling” to see their love and care for SC and the sacrifices that they had made for her in order to give her as full and rewarding a life as possible.

Chris Bright QC is a leading clinical negligence and personal injury Silk who acts for both claimants and defendants in high-profile CP, neonatal and catastrophic head/spinal injury cases. His profile can be found here. Stephen Goodfellow was called in 1997 and acts across a wide-range of serious injury and other litigation. His profile can be found here.