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More than £30 million compensation secured for seven-year-old boy who was starved of oxygen at birth

A child who suffered near-total deprivation of oxygen at his birth will receive more than £30 million in compensation to help provide lifelong care.

Posted on 20 July 2020

The sum secured on behalf of the boy, known as Jack to protect his identity, is believed to be one of the largest of its kind. 

The oxygen starvation at Jack’s birth left him with brain damage which caused a complex array of disabilities, including a communication disorder, profound learning difficulties, severe developmental delay, challenging behavioural difficulties and a complex sensory processing impairment.
Jack now requires full time care and support in respect of all aspects of daily living. He is supported by two carers throughout the day, and in time will require two carers at night.
The oxygen starvation at birth affected the blood supply to Jack’s brain and caused ‘hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy’. He was born in extremely poor condition and required extensive resuscitation. His resulting disabilities mean he will need care for the rest of his life.
Jack was represented in his legal action by solicitors in Leigh Day’s specialist clinical negligence team. They obtained an early admission of liability from the NHS Trust responsible for Jack’s care at the time of his birth, as well as interim payments (which are payments made whilst the litigation is still ongoing) to pay for Jack’s ongoing needs.
The legal claim was then paused to allow Jack to develop to an age at which his future needs could be appropriately assessed. The interim payments allowed Jack’s family to move to more suitable accommodation and to facilitate a day-to-day care regime, as well as to pay for therapies and equipment that would benefit Jack’s ongoing development.
Once Jack was old enough for expert evidence to be obtained on his future needs and requirements, his claim for damages was finalised and served on the defendant NHS Trust. Settlement discussions resulted in a substantial eight figure sum of damages being agreed between the parties. This consists of a lump sum payment and ongoing annual payments for the remainder of Jack’s life, which together will exceed £30 million.

Jack's parents said: 

"Despite the trust obviously being responsible for the incident, which was clear as day and confirmed to us by every single NHS staff that we spoke to on a day to day basis, the trust did not admit liability immediately.

"The consequence is that the extraordinary cost of having a baby with special needs has to be supported by the family (those costs range from private doctors and carers, extra staff and support at home, special need equipment, negotiating time off with employers) until a decision is made on the trust's liability.

“The outcome differs widely depending on the social class of the family, which is truly revolting.”
Suzanne White, head of clinical negligence at Leigh Day, said:

“What has happened to Jack is an absolute tragedy, which he and his family have to live with every day.  The sum of compensation paid to Jack is one of the largest of its kind and reflects the complex needs which have resulted from the injuries sustained at the time of his birth and the fact that he will require specialist round-the-clock care for the rest of his life.

"I have been doing these cases for 20 years and it is very depressing to see that while the costs of these claims are rising, care doesn’t seem to be improving. If we avoid one of these cases we save millions of pounds and prevent hideous distress and pain for a family.”

Jack’s legal team consisted of solicitors Suzanne White and Matthew Westlake of Leigh Day, and barristers Henry Witcomb QC and Paul Reynolds of 1 Crown Office Row.

Suzanne White
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Inquests

Suzanne White

Suzanne White is head of the medical negligence team and has specialised in this area of law since qualifying in 1999.

Matthew Westlake
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Surgical negligence

Matthew Westlake

Matthew Westlake is a senior associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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