Bridget Hughes acted for the child and both parents in this cerebral palsy claim which was complicated by maternal collapse at home as a result of probable amniotic fluid embolism. In issue was the correct management of suspected amniotic fluid embolism in labour combined with maternal coagulopathy, in particular in circumstances where there was extreme maternal pain, distress and confusion and where the baby was in the occipito-posterior position.
Further issues related to the difficulty in determining whether the cardiotocographic trace was recording the maternal or the fetal heart beat; whether the protocol for the management of severe pre-eclampsia and eclampsia should have been applied; the point at which amniotic fluid embolism should have been suspected; which anaesthetics could safely be given; and whether the fetus had been made more vulnerable to the stresses of labour and amniotic fluid embolism by the earlier maternal collapse at home. Unusually, expert evidence was obtained from an obstetric anaesthetist as well as from a fetal monitoring engineer in addition to those typically instructed in this type of case.
It was the child’s case that delivery should have been expedited by instrumental delivery; whereas the Hospital Trust’s position was that attempted instrumental delivery risked potentially life threatening haemorrhaging (as in fact subsequently occurred after delivery). It was agreed that had the child been delivered 8 minutes earlier all damage would have been avoided.
Following negotiation at a Round Table Meeting the parties agreed settlement on the basis of 75% of the full liability value which was reflective of the evidential difficulties on both sides. The matter subsequently proceeded to quantum, with settlement on the basis of periodical payments of £189,375 pa to age 19 and £231,000 from age 19; and a lump sum of £3m which was reflective of a reduced life expectancy. An additional sum was also agreed to be paid by way of periodical payment for loss of earnings.
Both parents successfully claimed and recovered damages for psychological harm arising out of the circumstances of the birth.