Medical Law
Claim – Stephanie

The facts:

Our client (Stephanie) was a girl who was born with cerebral palsy. At the time when her mother came to us, Stephanie was 13 years old. By the time when the claim settled, she was 16 years old. 

At the time of the birth, Stephanie’s mum presented herself at a public hospital and it was noted that the child’s head was “not engaged”. Basically, the baby was in an awkward position. As it happened, Stephanie’s grandmother, who was a midwife herself, was also present during labour. The labour was long and painful. Stephanie’s grandmother suggested on several occasions to the midwife that forceps should be used, but her advice was ignored. When Stephanie was born she was blue in appearance. She did not move and she did not cry. An attempt was made to revive her, which eventually succeeded. Approximately 1.5 years after her birth, Stephanie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. 

The claim:

After investigating the claim, we found that there were multiple failures on part of the midwife present and hospital staff generally. The labour was allowed to go for far too long, evidence of baby being in distress was ignored, no x-rays were performed before the birth. Based on this evidence we commenced court proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW.

After the proceedings were commenced the claim was fully investigated. Reports were obtained from an occupational therapist and other experts regarding Stephanie’s present and future needs. One of the difficulties was Stephanie’s age. A child psychiatrist who examined Stephanie on our behalf said that it was too early to determinate what will happen to Stephanie in the future with respect to her condition. Court proceedings needed to be temporarily stopped to ensure that proper reports were obtained regarding Stephanie’s future. After approximately 1.5 years Stephanie was re-examined by the same child psychiatrist who provided a comprehensive report dealing with her future needs and limitations. After this and other reports became available, court proceedings were ‘unfrozen’ and the claim eventually settled sometime after that.

The result:

The insurance company representing the hospital paid $2.5 million plus legal costs in settlement of the claim. The money was invested with an independent body called Public Trustee on Stephanie’s behalf. The purpose of this investment was to ensure that compensation monies were used for Stephanie’s welfare, such as her medical needs, as well as other services she might need in the future. Stephanie’s mother was delighted with the outcome.

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