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On 11th November 2013, in the Queen's Bench Division, Mrs Justice Carr approved a settlement of the liability and causation aspect of Rachel Robinson’s claim for damages for cerebral palsy. Rachel, who is now 12 years old, suffered brain damage as a result of compression of the umbilical cord during her birth on 4th May 2001 at Portsmouth Hospital.
Rachel’s mother was admitted to the Maternity Unit of the hospital for an expected vaginal delivery following an uncomplicated pregnancy. At 06:35 in the morning a midwife detected fetal bradycardia, indicating fetal distress, and arranged for the mother to be transferred to the labour ward. On her arrival at the ward, the on-call obstetric registrar was bleeped but he failed to respond as he had inadvertently left his bleep somewhere. After a delay of some 12 minutes, and a reminder bleep (which also went unanswered), the obstetric registrar arrived on the scene by chance. However, instead of dealing with the ongoing emergency, he walked off to retrieve his bleep, causing yet further delay, before returning and promptly delivering Rachel by Ventouse extraction.
As a result of a period of acute profound asphyxia, or several periods of partial asphyxia, Rachel has diplegic cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs. An interim payment was made and approved by the Court. The action will now be listed for directions to deal with quantum.
While accepting responsibility for some delay on the part of its staff, the hospital trust disputed both liability and causation, and the action had been listed for a 5-day trial. The compromise provided for Rachel to receive 80% of her damages to be assessed and was brokered at a Joint Settlement Meeting in October. It was approved by Mrs Justice Carr on the basis that it properly reflected the risk that the Court might have held that some or perhaps all of Rachel’s disability was unavoidable.
Alan Smith was instructed throughout by Doug Miller of Coffin Mew LLP