A multi-million pound damages settlement is set to be awarded to a 17-year-old boy after a High Court judge ruled in his favour and against Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, saying an obstetrician’s crucial evidence could not be relied upon.
The boy, who cannot be named, was represented by Hudgell Solicitors’ joint head of clinical negligence Chris Moore, who took the case to trial despite continued denials of any wrongdoing by the Trust over many years.
The trial took place over three days in London’s High Court before Mr Justice Cotter.
An Interim payment of £500,000 was awarded, with a final compensation settlement to be agreed between the parties or determined by the court, with lawyers saying it could be as high as £20m, based on previous settlements in similar cases, and how damages awards are calculated around the needs of life-long care and support.
Chris answers some of the questions he has been asked about the case and the significance of the ruling
Why was this a significant victory?
It was significant because it is a high value claim involving a child who suffered a significant, life-long brain injury and he will be dependent on care and help for his whole life.
It is legally significant because very few clinical negligence claims proceed to trial, the vast majority will settle before or during legal proceedings. Cases of this value and magnitude proceed to a final trial even less. So, for the claimant to prevail and receive an award in his favour is of great significance.
It is one of the biggest clinical negligence cases this year and I believe the biggest following a trial in terms of the value
What was it about the case that made you determined to see it through?
From the very beginning when I first saw my client, the mum of the injured boy, there was a conviction about her evidence that made me believe in her case. She was adamant throughout about what happened and when we got the medical records everything was consistent.
This was a case that was never going to be about expert evidence and it was a combination of my experience and belief in what my client was telling me that made me feel we can win.
The defendant was insistent that the judge would not rule in your favour – why did you see it differently?
The defendant and the NHS trust’s evidence was based on what they had hoped had happened at the time. But this was a chaotic clinic that my client visited and what the trust hoped had happened in terms of professional care simply didn’t take place.
As said previously I believed in my client and her account was consistent throughout.
Was there a time when you and the family thought it would be best to settle out of court?
We were prepared to agree sensible figures out of court which would have covered lifelong care and support and potentially not cost the NHS as much as it is expected to do now because that money would still have made a massive difference to the child.
We were looking to settle all along for the difference an earlier settlement would have made, but the defendant made us prove our case, which they are entitled to do. Having rejected our offer of settlement, the NHS will ultimately have to pay additional damages and costs.
Why then did the judge rule in your favour?
Looking at his judgment he preferred the evidence of our client and he acknowledged that she had been consistent throughout. He also noted that that the medical records supported her initial statement.
He was impressed with our client’s evidence and consistency and by contrast he said the doctor’s evidence had to be treated with great caution because of inconsistencies that came out during cross examination.
What has been the family’s response to the win?
The child is now seventeen and there is great relief that he and his family have got justice, they have been vindicated and the award is going to make such a great difference. The family is grateful that we believed in them all the way, we kept fighting for them and kept their spirits up when it felt we were getting nowhere in the face of intransigence.
It was a nine-year battle, what have you learnt from it?
We don’t have many medical negligence trials now and the only surprise was that the defendant resisted our overtures to settle out of court.
The trial reinforced the need to analyse and scrutinise all the evidence. That was really helpful in this case as we were able to highlight inconsistencies within the witness statements which helped prove our case.
There will be other families out there with similar serious clinical injury cases – what would your advice be in the face of a long legal battle ahead?
Get legal advice from specialist medical negligence solicitors, Hudgell Solicitors has a proven track record. Also trust in your legal team and try and keep the faith because even if you don’t have to take the case all the way to trial you may face a long battle to prove your case and/or persuade the defendant to consider a settlement.