Huge payout is agreed after birth blunders

(Reproduced with the kind permission of KOS Media Ltd).

A boy from Margate has been awarded a multi-million-pound compensation payout after the town’s QEQM Hospital admitted being at fault for injuries he suffered during birth. Four-year-old Oliver Lehan was left blind, brain-damaged and with cerebral palsy after the tragic events.

On Monday (December 15), Oliver’s mother and her legal team settled for a lump sum of £770,000 with annual payments throughout his life of £135,000, increasing to £250,000.

Solicitors representing the hospital admitted that staff at the QEQM had failed in their duty towards Oliver and that those failures led directly to injuries that should have been avoided.

Candy Lehan, 44 at the time, was taken to the Margate hospital to have Oliver’s birth induced on June 10, 2004. She was 39 weeks and two days into her pregnancy.

The events that led to Oliver’s condition are detailed in his solicitors’ Letter of Claim, written in March 2005 and admitted by the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages the hospital.

Initial scans measuring foetal heart-rate were carried out and caused no cause for concern, but shortly afterwards Candy became distressed by the length and severity of her contractions.

Midwifery notes record that a CTG scan – which records the foetal heartbeat and uterine contractions during pregnancy – began at 12.15 am, but the hospital later said that the recording was lost.

About 25 minutes later, the midwife had difficulty in finding the baby’s heart-rate but failed to call a doctor to assist.

At 1.10am a trace of the foetal heart-rate showed an abnormality and an assessment at 1.15am was wrongly interpreted.

A new CTG scan was started at 1.41am and showed that Oliver was not receiving sufficient oxygen.

A doctor assessed Candy at 2.15am and recognised the seriousness of the situation. He ordered an emergency Caesarean section and she was transferred to the delivery room.

However, a delay of 55 minutes occurred before it was performed. Oliver’s brain was starved of oxygen and at birth he showed signs of severe asphyxia (lack of oxygen in the blood).

As a result of the hospital’s negligence, Oliver sustained significant brain damage and cerebral palsy – he was unable to move or control his neck, arms and legs. He was also left blind.

Candy was told that her son was unlikely to live for more than a few weeks, but it is now thought he will now reach his teens.

He is unable to speak, suffers with seizures and chest infections, is fed through tubes and will remain at the mental age of six weeks.

The compensation payout is based on experts’ views on Oliver’s needs for the remainder of his life.

Hospital solicitors agreed to pay the full amount after two previous attempts earlier this year to reach a settlement had failed.

On Monday (December 15), His Honour Judge Simpkiss, sitting at the High Court, Canterbury District Registry, approved the settlement reached on Oliver’s behalf.

He described the case as “tragic”, adding “it is hard to imagine more serious injuries”.

The Lehans’ solicitor, Darren Tamplin, a partner at Fairweathers solicitors in Canterbury, said: “This has been a complicated case, involving a wide range of expert witnesses and I am very pleased that we’ve been able to achieve this settlement for Oliver.”

“I pay tribute to Candy’s heroic efforts in caring for him in the most trying circumstances since his birth and to all the sacrifices that she has made to ensure that he has always received the best of care.”

“I know how much being able to move to a more suitable home will improve the quality of both of their lives. All of the costly specialist equipment Oliver needs can now be purchased for him.”

“To protect Oliver’s financial interests for the remainder of his life, a further specialist solicitor has been appointed. He will control Oliver’s financial affairs under the supervision of the Court of Protection, ensuring that all money spent is only done so carefully, on essential items and in Oliver’s best interests.”

“I wish him and Candy all the very best for the future.”

Candy said: “I’m so happy that Oliver’s case has settled. We can now begin to look to the future rather than keep looking back. I can still barely believe the errors that were made at the hospital. It was just one failing after another, after another. I would like to think that no other expectant mother would be treated as I was, but you can’t be sure. I know that Oliver’s case led to a review of procedures and that nine of them were changed. I hope that Oliver’s misfortune means that Margate hospital is a safer place for other babies to be born. It may seem as though he has won a huge amount of money, but no amount can begin to compensate him for his condition and every penny is needed to meet Oliver’s complex needs.”

“We would give it all up to have Oliver well and healthy. He requires care 24 hours per day and needs a properly-adapted home.”

An East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman said: “The Trust deeply regrets the injuries suffered by Oliver and would like to take this opportunity to repeat our apology to the family. We are delighted that this agreement which we worked out with them has now been formalised by Judge Simpkiss in the High Court and that Mrs Lehan will now be able to concentrate on caring for her son. The settlement award should ensure that any additional financial needs Oliver may have as a result of these injuries are taken care of for the rest of his life.”