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Substantial compensation confirmed for clinical negligence client

Anne Winyard, joint head of the clinical negligence department at law firm Leigh Day & Co, welcomes a settlement which has been approved for her client Olivia Bull.

Posted on 28 April 2008

Olivia Bull is now six. She was born prematurely at Watford General Hospital in March 2002. Sadly her ventilator settings were mismanaged in the time after she was born - causing diplegic cerebral palsy (CP) as a result of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). PVL is caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the area of the brain around the ventricles and babies who suffer from PVL are at risk of motor disorders, delayed mental development, co-ordination problems, and vision and hearing impairments.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust admitted liability in Olivia's case and Mr Justice Henriques yesterday approved her claim against the trust. She will receive a lump sum of £2.4m plus index-linked periodic payments to cover care and case management costs for life.

Sarah Bull, Olivia's mother said:

"I have the most adorable daughters that I could wish for.

I am greatly relieved about the outcome of Olivia's case. But it has been a long hard fight to get the funds to provide the care, therapies and equipment that Olivia needs. Her severe injuries and the long legal battle to get compensation for her have had a profound impact on my family. The award to Olivia today will enable her to lead a more fulfilled life.

In March 2007, part way through Olivia's case, the hospital admitted they had been negligent. Our solicitor tells me that but for this admission, the case is likely to have taken longer. At least from March 2007 on, we were able to concentrate upon putting together the parts of Olivia's case that set out her special needs, resulting eventually in today's settlement. But if only the admission had come earlier, the case would have been over more quickly.

Hospitals who injure their patients should understand it is part of their duty to 'own up' at an early stage, when it is obvious they are at fault. Justice in these cases needs to be much speedier to prevent other families suffering in the same way that we have."

Anne Winyard, who represented Olivia said:

"I am glad Sarah is pleased with the settlement. I, too, am pleased with it from the legal point of view and hope that it will help Olivia live her life to the full.

Of course what Olivia and all my other clients want is not to have been injured in the first place. Compensation to pay for all the extra care and therapies and help which they need, as a result of major injury, comes a poor second – vital though it is.

So many clients feel the same as Sarah about the stresses of complicated litigation. They feel doubly injured by the hospital – once when the actual injury was sustained and then afterwards - when they are struggling to understand and come to terms with the tragedy that has happened – they find that explanations and apologies are not forthcoming. This process of evasion and delay by the hospital often continues once litigation is contemplated and commenced. At least in this case the hospital admitted they were at fault shortly after we issued proceedings.

Early admissions of fault would mean a lot to families. Cases could be settled more quickly and the costs would be far lower."

Looking at photos of Olivia on an adventure holiday run by the Calvert Trust last summer the judge said: "Only a child who has received much loving care could look like that".

For more information please contact the clinical negligence team on 020 7650 1200.

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