Record payout for girl left disabled by Preston hospital blunders

Royal Preston Hospital
Royal Preston Hospital
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A little girl who was left catastrophically disabled by medical blunders following her birth has been awarded a record damages payout, worth more than £13m.

The eight-year-old, who cannot be identified, sustained devastating brain damage after her delivery at the Royal Preston Hospital in 2006.

She was born suffering from a streptococcal infection, which medics negligently failed to diagnose or treat until it was too late, London’s High Court heard.

Those failures led to the onset of potentially fatal meningitis, which wrecked her life.

The girl is quadriplegic, almost blind, suffers cerebral palsy and behavioural difficulties and stands no chance of ever living independently or working.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted full liability for her injuries in 2013, said Mr Justice William Davies.

On Friday, the judge awarded the girl what is believed to be the largest ever payout in a birth injuries case where life expectancy is substantially reduced. The girl will receive a £3,592,336 lump sum to cover the costs of her past care, plus a range of specialist equipment and therapies she will need.

On top of that, she will receive annual, index-linked and tax-free payments to meet the costs of looking after her, 24-hours-a-day, for the rest of her life. Those payments will start at £225,280-a-year until 2014, before rising to £246,421-a-year when she passes her 18th birthday.

The judge said that, although the girl can move her body a little, she has no independent mobility and is entirely dependent on others for all aspects of daily life.

Her intellect is profoundly impaired; she cannot speak and has very limited ability to interact with the world around her. Although she can recognise members of her family and others familiar to her, she suffers from severe behavioural problems.

The judge said she functions at the level of a one-year-old baby and can barely see. Throughout her life, she has been cared for by her parents, who also have two younger children.

The judge said the love the couple had lavished on their daughter was ‘greatly to their credit’.

She is expected to live to about the age of 49 and much of the damages award will be used to pay for two professional carers, who will be on call day and night.

The lump sum payout included £305,000 for her ‘pain, suffering and loss of amenity’ and £270,000 to cover the costs of her care to date.

£400,000 was set aside to pay for specialist equipment, £300,000 to compensate her for a lifetime of lost earnings, £128,000 for holidays and £250,000 for transport costs.

Another £820,000 will be used to pay for adapted accommodation and other substantial sums will cover a range of therapies, including riding for the disabled.

‘This is a tragic case,’ the family’s barrister, William Featherby QC, earlier told the judge.

He said that her ‘catastrophic’ mental and physically disabilities had made her the ‘agonisingly demanding focal point’ for her parents.

Her ‘unpredictable crying fits’, which can last for hours, have had a serious impact on the lives of the other children of the family. She is also prone to harming herself or her carers with bites, kicks and scratches.

“She has fits of high-pitched screaming, kicking, scratching, pinching, grabbing and involuntary movement at odd times, and these can be prolonged and distressing’, said the QC.