Award for birth injury will provide 12-year-old’s care for rest of his life

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This is a tragic birth injury case of an avoidable accident which caused devastating results. James is a bright 12 year-old lad with a wicked sense of humour and perhaps the most distressing aspect of this case is the loss of the life James could have had if he had not been injured.” Denise Stephens, partner with law firm Access Legal.

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has been ordered to pay what is anticipated to be a £14.6m award for birth injuries after failing to carry out a caesarean section and properly monitor a woman during labour which led to her son being born with cerebral palsy.

The decision, believed to be one of the most significant in a case of medical negligence and the largest ever such court-ordered award for birth injury, reflects the lifetime care that 12-year-old James Robshaw needs.

James cannot speak, dress or feed himself (without assistance of a machine) and must use a wheelchair. His intellect has remained fairly well intact and he communicates through sophisticated eye-gaze equipment. He will however be dependent on others to enable him to carry out the most routine daily tasks for the rest of his life.

His mother, Suzanne Adams, was in established labour when she was admitted to Lincoln County hospital in 2002. Although her baby’s heart was monitored after her arrival, midwives either ignored or could not interpret the CTG trace correctly. James had an abnormal heart rate and was evidently in some distress and Suzanne was exhausted by a prolonged labour.

The confusion about CTG interpretation and the additional failure to carry out a timely caesarean section meant there was a delay in delivering James. Resuscitation procedures were carried out in the delivery room before James was transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit.

Suzanne’s lawyer, Denise Stephens, a partner with law firm Access Legal, who specialises in medical negligence cases, argued that if the caesarean section had been carried out or hospital staff had monitored the baby’s heart rate properly, the midwife could have identified that James was in distress. In either event, he would have been delivered much sooner and so would not have suffered any injury.

Denise Stephens said: “This is a tragic case of an avoidable accident at birth which caused devastating injuries. James is a bright 12 year old lad with a wicked sense of humour and perhaps the most distressing aspect of this case is the loss of the life James could have had if he had not been injured.

“I will always be grateful to Denise and Access Legal for the help and support they have given us throughout. The award will help James realise his potential, but no amount of money can ever make up for the mistakes that have condemned my amazing son to a lifetime of dependency on others.” Suzanne Adams, James’s mother.”

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust finally admitted liability for James’s injuries in 2009 seven years after his birth. It took a further 6 years to fight for damages for James. The sum ordered by the High Court includes money to pay for all James’ needs including:

  • 24 hour care provided by a team of live-in carers.
  • Significant modifications to his home to allow James to use his powered wheelchair and access bathroom, kitchen, etc.
  • Hoisting and tracking equipment to lift James in and out of wheelchairs/bed.
  • Disability equipment.
  • Therapists including physiotherapist, speech & language therapist, occupational therapist, AAC therapist, orthotist, orthoptist, psychologist.
  • Adapted vehicle to enable James to travel in his wheelchair.
  • Sophisticated eye-gaze equipment to enable James to speak and communicate with people and carry out his school work.
  • Funding for James’ additional educational needs.

James’s mother Suzanne added: “The family has been through a very difficult time. It’s taken its toll on family relationships and my mental health and I am still on medication for depression and anxiety. It was difficult to cope on my own at first and the interim payments Denise obtained transformed our lives.

“I will always be grateful to Denise and Access Legal for the help and support they have given us throughout. The award will help James realise his potential, but no amount of money can ever make up for the mistakes that have condemned my amazing son to a lifetime of dependency on others.”

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