£7.75 million award for cerebral palsy caused by delay in diagnosis of meningitis following Group B strep infection

The claimant was born by ventouse delivery at 41 weeks gestation. His condition was poor on delivery, with grunting, jitteriness and some bleeding from the umbilical cord. He was initially transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) for monitoring but was returned 45 minutes later.

When he was given back to his mother, she noticed that he was trembling and shaking rapidly, and assumed him to be cold. At around three and a half hours old, the claimant and his mother were transferred to the maternity ward and shortly after his arrival there was a suggestion that he might need to be taken back to SCBU for an ECG due to a low heart rate.

During the following hours, the claimant’s heart rate remained low, but he was kept on the maternity ward. He was having trouble with feeding and his mother was concerned about this, his low heart rate and his jittery behaviour. The senior house officer (SHO) in paediatrics reviewed him and recommended observations. When the claimant’s condition remained the same an hour later, the midwife made contact with the SHO who returned and reviewed him again. He continued to have a low heart rate and his temperature had risen so the SHO recommended further observations. Over the next few hours, the claimant developed rapid breathing and his temperature increased further. Despite the midwife making contact with the paediatricians, they did not review him again, but recommended ongoing monitoring.   

Overnight the claimant continued to present with a reduced heart rate and rapid breathing and he began to vomit, but he again remained on the post-natal ward.

At the end of the night shift, one of the midwives completed an incident report form commenting that she had not been appropriately supported by the paediatric team during the night and that her concerns about the claimant had not been taken sufficiently seriously or acted upon with sufficient speed.  

Early that morning the claimant began making whimpering noises, was unsettled and was vomiting and by around 8am he was pale and had mottled skin. The midwives were aware of his condition, but no assessment was made of him, no paediatrician attended and no action was taken. His breathing rate continued to remain high.

It was not until the claimant suffered a seizure at around 1pm that he was admitted to SCBU. He finally received antibiotics between around 3pm and 4pm.

The claimant had developed meningitis, secondary to a Group B streptococci inhaled in utero and causing a streptococcal pneumonia with the beginnings of this evidenced in the breathing difficulties he had shortly after birth.  He went on to suffer severe meningitic brain injury.

We obtained expert evidence which indicated that the claimant should have been transferred back to SCBU by around nine hours old. Had this happened, he would have been monitored and observed properly and he would have been treated with antibiotics. If these had been given by around ten hours old, he would have avoided any brain injury.

The defendant trust accepted full responsibility for failures in the claimant’s care and for causing his associated brain injury. The claimant’s life expectancy was, sadly, reduced by his injuries, and compensation was recovered to meet his needs for life. This compensation was split between a lump sum payment and annual payments to meet care and case management costs, with the capitalised settlement sum around £7.75 million.

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