Lawyers representing a 15-year-old girl who was left profoundly deaf and disabled due to the failure of hospital staff to promptly diagnose and treat meningitis when she was a baby have achieved a multi-million-pound settlement of her case against the NHS.
The girl was stricken by the potentially fatal infection when she was eight months old. Her mother took her to hospital on her GP's advice but there was a failure by medics to appreciate how ill she was. The mother claimed that doctors had ‘tried to send her home’ and that it was only at her insistence that her daughter was kept in overnight.
Due to an admittedly negligent failure to give her intravenous antibiotics on the day of her admission, her condition had steadily worsened to the point where she suffered seizures and brain damage. As a result, the girl had lost her hearing, her balance and coordination were seriously impaired and her speech was difficult to understand. She also suffered from dyspraxia and learning difficulties.
On her behalf, her legal team sued the NHS Trust responsible for the hospital's management, which agreed to a settlement of her case on the basis of 95 per cent liability. Under the terms of the compromise, she would receive a substantial lump sum, plus annual, tax-free and index-linked payments to cover the costs of her care for life. The exact figures involved were kept confidential; however, they were very substantial and the money would be invested for the girl’s benefit by the Court of Protection.
The Trust issued a public apology after conceding that the girl had not received the treatment that she was entitled to expect and, in approving the settlement, the judge paid tribute to the girl’s family, who had risen extremely well to the challenge of caring for her and maximising her potential.
The girl’s solicitor said later, "This is an excellent outcome for my client after a complex and lengthy case. Her disabilities and learning difficulties are so severe that she is unlikely to ever earn her own living. She has been lovingly cared for by her family but it was important to ensure her long-term needs should be met. The settlement will ensure that she is provided for throughout the rest of her life."
The girl’s mother said, "It has been a long road to get to this point but now this is settled we are able to be sure that my daughter will be taken care of for the rest of her life. This was all about making sure that her needs could be met in the long term. I would like other families in this situation to know that there are options available to them if they want to pursue this kind of claim."