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Multi Million Pound Damages for Sunderland School-girl

Multi Million Pound Damages for Sunderland School-girl

A seven year old school-girl is set to receive multi million pound damages after a North East hospital admitted liability for catastrophic injuries caused during her birth.

A seven year old school-girl is set to receive multi million pound damages after a North East hospital admitted liability for catastrophic injuries caused during her birth.

Sophie Steele from Sunderland was born at 32 weeks’ gestation at Sunderland Royal Hospital on 7th December 2007. During labour, the treating clinicians made the disastrous decision to take a fetal blood sample from the crown of her head. Their actions caused a subdural haematoma in Sophie’s brain which has resulted in extensive and life-limiting injuries: Sophie has cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs so she cannot walk and has to use a wheelchair; she is unable to speak and has difficulty in breathing. The Trust accepted liability for Sophie’s injuries in November 2014.

In a letter to Sophie’s parents in January 2015, Ken Bremner Chief Executive of City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said, “It was not appropriate for fetal blood sampling to have been performed on a baby at 32 weeks gestation and that sampling caused an injury which …caused Sophie’s brain injury. I am very sorry.”

The family’s solicitor is Angela Curran, a nationally recognised medical negligence expert from Burnetts. Having secured an admission of liability, Angela is now working on establishing the level of damages which will be required to ensure Sophie will have care and support for the rest of her life. It is expected that the damages award will be millions of pounds.

Speaking after liability was agreed, Sophie’s father, Andrew Steele (42) said, “There is nothing to celebrate here. I knew there was something wrong the day Sophie was born, and have waited seven years for the hospital to admit they made a mistake, but you can’t be pleased to get a letter saying ‘yes we hurt your daughter’. The damages will make a massive difference to Sophie’s life, but we would live in a tent if we could see Sophie running around with her friends and able to call our names when she needs something.”

Sophie’s mother Donna Tate (33) added, “In 2007, I saw a story in the Sunderland Echo about Jensen Carter and read how Angela had helped him. Once we told Angela about Sophie, she has never stopped fighting for us. If one family sees this story and it helps them to find out the truth about their child, it will have been worth it.”

Angela Curran said, “The decision to carry out this procedure on Sophie was disastrous. The skulls of babies at 32 weeks are extremely fragile and the risk of serious injury is huge. This damages award will ensure that Sophie has all the care, therapy and equipment essential to maximise her quality of life. Andrew and Donna would also like to see the Trust implement a detailed protocol for fetal blood sampling in pre term babies to ensure that no other baby suffers the same injuries as Sophie.”

In order that Sophie’s complex care needs are fully evaluated, the process of agreeing the financial settlement is expected to take approximately 12 months. Once financial settlement is approved by the High Court, Sophie’s award will be paid into the Court of Protection and administered by a Court-appointed Deputy to ensure her substantial care needs are met.  

Sophie attends Oxclose Community Academy in Washington. The family lives in Sunderland.

Published: Tuesday 14th April 2015
Categorised: Medical Negligence

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