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Significant settlement for client who developed meningitis soon after birth

Six-figure sum and periodic payments for young client with brain damage

Photo of streptococci bacteria from istock

17 December 2009

Frances Swaine, partner and head of the human rights department, has secured a significant six-figure sum and periodic payments for a client (Y) who developed meningitis soon after birth. Our client’s mother had been carrying the Group B Streptococci (GBS) infection which caused our client to develop meningitis at or shortly before birth leaving Y with brain damage and little prospect of ever living independently in the future.

Our client’s mother was a healthy woman who gave birth to a child in 1989 by a forceps delivery. Soon after this delivery Mrs X developed an infection at the site of her episiotomy and a routine swab revealed that she was carrying GBS. She was prescribed penicillin and subsequently discharged from hospital.

Group B Streptococci

Group B Streptococci can be extremely dangerous for neonates. It is the main pathogen that causes septicaemia and meningitis in very young babies who are then susceptible to suffering brain damage, deafness and other health complications such as digestive problems. There is a high risk that GBS can be transferred from a mother who carries the infection to her unborn, or very newly-born child. It is vital that the presence of GBS is observed in the medical notes of any woman who has been identified as carrying the infection.

Our client’s mother became pregnant again in December 1992 and her second child was born on 21st July 1993. Immediately after Y’s birth Mrs X noticed that our client had a strange cry, seemed to be in constant pain and did not feed properly. Mrs X and her child were discharged from hospital the next day but our client suffered a fit on 23rd July 1993 and was re-admitted to hospital. Our client was then diagnosed as suffering from meningitis, the cause of which was GBS carried by the mother. Intravenous penicillin was prescribed for our client in the evening of 24th July 1993.

The claim made of behalf of our client was that the hospital did not inform Mrs X’s GP that GBS had been detected in 1989, did not tell Mrs X of the significance of GBS on any future pregnancy and did not tell the paediatricians caring for Mrs X’s first child of the GBS finding.

If the antennal staff had known about the presence of GBS at the time of Mrs X’s first pregnancy, when they booked her in for her second pregnancy steps could have been taken to check for the continued presence of GBS. Most paediatricians start intravenous antibiotic treatment and monitor both mother and baby very closely if GBS is detected. We argued that if our client had received antibiotics sooner than on 24th July 1993, then brain damage would not have been sustained.

Following the production of expert reports Frances Swaine was able to obtain a substantial settlement for our client which will enable the family to make secure financial plans for their child’s future.

Future health and care for our client

Our client is now 16 and has a number of problems as a consequence of suffering brain damage as a baby. These problems are significant speech disorder and memory problems with a difficulty in concentrating for long periods. There are significant problems with co-ordination, sensory motor skills and a difficulty in relating to people of the same age. Our client will not be able to live independently in the future and is likely to need some form of supported living and sheltered occupation when they get older.

Frances Swaine said:

"This case highlights the importance of communication between the obstetric and neonatal staff at the time of delivery of a baby. The obstetric team were aware of the fact that the mother was a carrier of "Strep B" but they didn't pass that on to the paediatricians. If the paediatricians had known of the possibility that the baby might have become infected they would have listened more carefully to the mother's concerns about the fact that her baby appeared to her to be ill from birth, instead of dismissing those concerns and sending them home without appropriate checks. The outcome was a very sad one clinically, as the baby would have recovered completely if antibiotics had begun at the time the mother first raised concerns."

For more information please contact Frances Swaine on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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Our Expertise

Clinical negligence

Who worked on this case

Frances Swaine

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