The ever-increasing cost of professional care, combined with low returns on capital investments, have necessarily led to an escalation in the value of damages awards to victims of clinical negligence. The point was underlined by a case in which a seven-year-old girl who was starved of oxygen during her birth secured an NHS compensation package worth almost £18 million.
The girl's mother suffered a ruptured uterus during the latter stages of her traumatic labour and the family claimed that, but for a negligent delay in her eventual caesarean delivery, she would have been born uninjured. As it was, however, she suffered a severe brain injury and was left with physical disabilities and behavioural and learning difficulties.
Having almost no sense of danger, she is at high risk when crossing the road and requires constant supervision. Slow to react to pain, she once suffered serious burns when she touched a hot metal plate. Although she is capable of riding a tricycle if her feet are strapped to the pedals, she generally needs a buggy or electric wheelchair to cover distances of more than 100 yards.
After action was taken on the girl's behalf, the NHS trust that ran the hospital where she was born admitted liability in full for her injuries and agreed to a final settlement of her claim. Together with a £7.75 million lump sum, she will receive index-linked and tax-free annual payments to cover the costs of her care for life. The High Court approved the settlement, which has a capitalised value over her expected lifetime of £17.9 million.