Proving negligence on the part of medical professionals can often be relatively easy, but establishing that such breaches of duty are the cause of injuries can be a much tougher proposition. However, a case in which a five-year-old boy won £2 million in compensation showed that specialist lawyers are well able to rise to the challenge.
The boy suffered relatively mild bleeding on the brain soon after his birth and later developed hydrocephalus. However, the condition appeared to be resolving well and he was discharged home. He was later seen by his local GP at a routine six-week baby check-up and again shortly thereafter.
The doctor missed signs that his hydrocephalus was worsening and failed to refer him back to hospital. Damage to the boy's brain has left him with mobility problems and significant cognitive disabilities. After proceedings were launched, the GP's insurers swiftly admitted that he had been negligent.
The insurers, however, disputed the extent to which the GP's breaches of duty had caused the boy's injuries. He had been born with a genetic abnormality which frequently causes cognitive impairment. There was also a dispute as to whether his prematurity, and a number of infections and subsequent surgical interventions, had contributed to his brain damage.
Rather than fight a difficult and complex case which could well have taken years to come to trial, a pragmatic decision was taken to negotiate a financial settlement of his claim. In approving the compromise, the High Court noted that £2 million was not enough to meet all his future care needs. It would, however, provide financial certainty and enable the boy's family to focus not on litigation but on ensuring that he achieves his potential.