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Milk allergy verdict announced

Inquest jury brings verdict of 'accidental death contributed to by neglect' on the death of baby from milk allergy.

Posted on 28 January 2003

An Inquest jury today brought the strongest verdict, of ‘accidental death contributed to by neglect’, available to them on the case of 5-month old Thomas Egan who died after being fed milk in April 2002.  Thomas was fed the milk by a nursery nurse at Jigsaw Nursery in Milton Keynes, even though it was known to the nursery that Thomas had a milk allergy.

Leigh Day & Co solicitor, Nicola Wainwright, has been advising Wendy and Gordon Egan, Thomas’s parents, throughout the inquest and the inquiries undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service and Health and Safety Executive.

Speaking at a press conference following the finding by the jury, Gordon Egan read the following statement,
“The Coroner’s inquest into the death of our baby son Thomas has been a very traumatic and painful event for Wendy, myself and our families. “We would firstly like to give our personal thanks to our barrister, Dr Ranald Davidson and our solicitor, Nicola Wainwright, of Leigh Day & Co.  Their help and support before and during this inquest have been much appreciated.

“The purpose of an inquest is to establish specific facts.  Who dies, how they died and what the cause of death was.  It unfortunately does not consider who was responsible for the cause of death.
The facts are that our son, Thomas James Egan, died on the 11 April 2002.  Thomas died due to a severe allergic reaction to a large dose of milk protein.  The milk was contained in a cereal product fed to Thomas at Jigsaw Nursery on the morning of 11 April. Prior to his death Thomas was a very happy thriving baby.

It is our belief that there can be no doubt that Thomas was killed due to tragic errors and failings made by staff within Jigsaw Nursery.  Prior to Thomas starting to attend the Brownswood Branch of Jigsaw Nursery we gave specific details of Thomas’s allergy to cow’s milk and had made it clear that under no circumstances was Thomas to be exposed to cow’s milk produce.  In addition we gave clear instructions as to what foods Thomas could be fed.  We were assured by staff at Jigsaw Nursery that appropriate procedures and practices were in place to ensure that these instructions would be followed and that Thomas would be safe in their care.

The tragic reality was that we believe some procedures may have existed, but they were inadequate and not being applied in practice.  An example of this is that it transpires that none of the staff responsible for the day-to-day care of Thomas had received any formal training in caring for babies and young children with food allergies.  Jigsaw Nursery readily accepted our son into their care, but we believe their day-to-day practices meant they neglected that duty of care.  We have to live with that tragic reality every day of our lives.

Jigsaw Nursery has admitted its mistake but at no time have they yet accepted responsibility for their errors.  We have found their attempts to deflect responsibility for their errors particularly distasteful and painful to deal with. I found the approach taken during the inquest by their legal representative Michael Powers in attempting to apportion blame to my wife Wendy, outrageous and disgusting” said Mr Gordon Egan.

“Furthermore we find it difficult to understand or accept why not one of the nursery nurses, particularly Crystal Norman, did not at any time express any personal sorrow or remorse for the death of Thomas while giving evidence. We are also unable to accept that their evidence was an entirely complete or accurate record of events. We understand that there are commercial pressures on a business the size of Jigsaw Nurseries but this must always be secondary to their duty of care to the children that parents entrust to them. We will now be pursing further discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service regarding possible corporate manslaughter charges as we believe there were systematic failings that caused Thomas’s death.  We will also be assisting the ongoing Health and Safety Investigation.

Our son Thomas made our lives more complete than we thought we ever needed.  He will be forever in our hearts and minds.  As his parents, we always wanted to do what was right for Thomas.  We will not live our lives being bitter about his death but instead will dedicate ourselves to being people that Thomas would have been proud of to have as parents.

Finally, we would like to thank the press and media for not being intrusive during the inquest and for the sensitive way in which you have reported the hearing and we would ask that you continue to respect our desire for privacy over the coming days.”

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