The Royal Courts of Justice has today approved a significant clinical negligence settlement, which could ultimately amount to several million pounds, for Daniel Andersen, a young man from Penrice, Cornwall who sustained severe brain injury at birth.
Daniel has hemiplegia and severe epilepsy as a result of the poor obstetric management of his mother’s labour at Penrice Midwifery Unit in 1994, where he was delivered by an on-call general practitioner.
Through his Litigation Friend, Daniel Andersen pursued a claim against Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust. He alleged that it was inappropriate for his mother, as a first time mother, to be booked into a midwifery unit that was some distance from the nearest main hospital and that she was not properly advised of the risks of giving birth in such a unit before agreeing to be booked there.
In particular, his mother was not made aware that the unit had limited facilities, could not offer CTG tracing of the unborn babies’ heart rate, could not perform a caesarean section if required and that there would be no obstetricians on site to assist with the birth.
Daniel Andersen also alleged that, on arrival at the midwifery unit and at various times during that day, his mother should have been transferred to the main hospital rather than allowing her labour to proceed in the midwifery unit. Finally, when his birth was imminent and his mother was still at the midwifery unit, the birth was mishandled by the general practitioner, who was the only doctor available to carry out the delivery.
All of these allegations were denied by the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust who said that the use of a midwifery unit was an acceptable choice to be offered to Daniel Andersen’s mother. The use of such units, particularly for first time deliveries, is controversial and politically sensitive. There is considerable pressure to encourage the use of midwifery units and whether they provide adequate facilities for complications of delivery is difficult to assess.
The court proceedings were issued in March 2012. Liability was contested but the defendants were ultimately willing to enter into negotiations to try to reach a liability settlement. The parties subsequently agreed to compromise the claim and judgment has now been entered for Daniel with damages to be assessed. The agreement reached through negotiation is that Daniel Andersen will receive 60% of those damages.
The court proceedings will now continue as the parties quantify the damages to which Daniel is entitled. The defendants have agreed to make an initial interim payment of £50,000 towards the considerable expense already incurred in providing Daniel with the care he requires. It is likely that the final settlement will be substantial, running into a few million pounds, and will probably be by way of a lump sum and annual periodical payments to meet his ongoing support and therapy needs.
Daniel has been represented in the litigation by his parents, with his mother acting as his Litigation Friend. Following news of the settlement reached in December 2013, his parents said: "We are hugely relieved that the liability aspect of the case has concluded – this is the best Christmas present for Daniel we could have ever asked for. We are delighted.”
Alison Johnson, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, who advised on Daniel’s claim, said: "This has been a far from straightforward claim and it has been necessary to gather a lot of very technical expert evidence to piece together what happened at the Birthing Unit and how Daniel’s injuries could and should have been avoided. I am delighted with the liability settlement reached for Daniel. His parents never lost faith, despite the denial of liability, and now have the reassurance that Daniel will receive damages to enable him to lead as full a life as he can with the care and support that he needs to do that.”