£6.7m award to boy whose life was ruined by ‘devastating’ errors at Portsmouth hospital

St Mary's Hospital
St Mary's Hospital
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A YOUNG boy who received catastrophic brain damage due to mistakes made by a Portsmouth hospital has been given a settlement worth more than £6.7m.

At the age of four, the boy suffered devastating brain injuries after staff at St Mary’s Hospital in Milton failed to act quickly enough to spot that he had a serious medical condition.

As a result, he had a cardiac arrest which led to brain damage and left him with severe disabilities.

The child, now aged 12, and whose identity has been protected by a court order, has no independent movements, is reliant on carers 24 hours a day and can only communicate through eye moments and the use of specialist technology.

Lawyers from BL Claims Solicitors pursued a clinical negligence claim on his behalf, alleging there were delays in performing a chest x-ray to diagnose that the boy had a condition called congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

The condition is caused by the failure of the diaphragm to fuse properly while the child is developing in the womb, allowing organs to move from the abdomen up into the chest cavity.

It was also argued that there were delays in inserting a nasogastric tube to decompress the stomach and a delay in summoning specialists when he went into cardiac arrest.

On July 14 in the Royal Courts of Justice, His Honour Judge Moloney QC, sitting as a judge in the High Court, approved a settlement negotiated between the claimant and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs St Mary’s.

The settlement, estimated to exceed £6.7m, is made up of a lump sum of £3.2m plus annual payments of £265,000 a year until the claimant is aged 18 and then £305,000 a year for the rest of his life.

The money will be used to pay for the specialist care the claimant needs.

Dr John White, of BL Claims Solicitors, acting for the family, said: ‘This significant settlement reflects the devastating consequences of the mistakes made at St Mary’s Hospital and the severity of the claimant’s injuries.

‘If the condition of congenital diaphragmatic hernia had been diagnosed more promptly and staff had acted more quickly to deal with its implications, the outcome would have been very different.

‘The claimant needs round-the-clock care for the rest of his life and this settlement will help to ensure that he receives that.’

The boy’s parents said in a statement: ‘The very tragic part is that if the doctors had listened or taken any notice of what we kept saying as parents then this event would have been easily avoided.

‘Instead our son’s life has been completely ruined. He will never go to his school prom, enjoy playing on the beach or have fun kicking a football around with his friends.

‘One message we would like give to all parents is please always trust your instincts when your child is unwell.

‘If you believe that something is wrong then insist that action is taken by the doctors.

‘Nothing will ever make up for the life that has been taken away from him.

‘Our son and his enormous daily battle are an inspiration to all that know or have met him. This is an absolute tragedy caused by mistakes that should never have happened.’

The claimant was seen at St Mary’s in the early hours of September 30, 2006 after developing pains in his stomach and admitted at around 7am.

Following an original diagnosis, he went into cardiac arrest and was transferred to Southampton General Hospital following being stabalised and underwent surgery to repair the defect in his diaphragm.

The case was initially defended by the trust and had been due to go to trial to decide on the issue of liability in the autumn of 2012.

Judgment was entered in the claimant’s favour in October 2012, and the hearing on July 14 approved the amount of the settlement negotiated between the parties.