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Brain injury during delivery leads to £2m and annual payments for Harriet Riley

Medical negligence claims lawyers secure substantial compensation for client with cerebral palsy

Harriet Riley

31 May 2012

Clinical negligence lawyers Anne Winyard and Kirsten Wall have settled a claim on behalf of Harriet Riley who suffered severe brain damage during her delivery.  Harriet received a lump sum award of £2m together with indexed linked annual payments of £325,000 to cover her care and other special needs for the rest of her life.

Harriet, who is nine years old, suffered oxygen deprivation during her delivery at the Royal Gwent Hospital.  The midwife who was managing Harriet’s birth failed to react appropriately to this life threatening situation resulting in significant damage to Harriet’s brain. 

Even when the midwife did appreciate that Harriet was in danger, the system in place at the Royal Gwent Hospital means that instead of a doctor coming up from the Main Delivery Unit to the Midwife-led Ward to perform an assisted delivery, Harriet’s mother had to be transferred downstairs, even though Harriet’s head was already visible, causing further delay.

As a result of the Hospital’s negligent failure to expedite Harriet’s delivery, she suffers from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy which means that she requires 24 hour care and needs help with every aspect of daily life and cannot even any longer safely attend her special school.  Harriet’s parents hope that this settlement will allow Harriet to receive the care and assistance she needs.

Despite her problems, Harriet is gutsy and sociable – not for nothing is she known as ‘Smiley Riley’! Mr Justice Walker, who approved the settlement, at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday 25 May 2012, paid tribute not only to Harriet’s parents for all the care they have given her but also to Harriet herself for, “coping in her own fashion with all that has befallen her”.  

Harriet’s father comments, “the litigation was hard fought and not without its ups and downs.  We were advised and prepared for these setbacks, twists and turns by the very wise and canny Anne Winyard and guided on an almost weekly basis by the brilliantly dedicated Kirsten Wall.  Despite this roller coaster ride the process proved to be as rewarding a distraction during Harriet’s equivalent health struggles as it was in final settlement.  In a strange way we enjoyed every minute of it!”

In thanking Harriet’s QCs and team of medical accident lawyers at Leigh Day  at the culmination of events he added, “it has been a privilege to witness the case evolve and cathartic to see, and hear, Harriet’s name mentioned, and printed, in all this officialdom.  It puts her firmly on the map.  Whereas our little girl herself cannot be heard I can think of no finer voices to speak on her behalf!”

Commenting on the Royal Gwent maternity ward he said, “It has a layout which invites disaster!” He went to say that, “a name badge and a uniform does not deliver a baby safely.  Individuals who step up to care and treat are to be commended but they must do so with the professional conduct and commitment befitting the job."

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