£12m payout agreed for disabled boy

A High Court judge has approved a £12 million compensation agreement for a seven-year-old boy left severely disabled after an abnormal heartbeat was not "acted upon" during his birth, lawyers said.

Toby Hart, of Bedale, North Yorkshire, will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies was today told at a High Court hearing in London.


The judge gave her backing to a settlement - which included a £2 million lump sum and annual payments of nearly £500,000 - agreed between lawyers representing Toby's parents, Michelle and Matthew Hart, and a hospital trust.

Mr and Mrs Hart later said they hoped that the NHS would invest in better midwife training.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented Mr and Mrs Hart, said in a statement after today's hearing that problems had arisen during Toby's birth at Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, in October 2006.

Lawyers said his abnormal heartbeat "was not acted upon".

They said a settlement had been agreed with the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

"During his birth at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton in October 2006, Toby's heart rate slowed drastically but medical staff failed to spot he was in distress and he was born 25 minutes later than he should have been, starving his brain of oxygen and leaving him permanently brain damaged," said an Irwin Mitchell spokesman in the statement.

"(We) have now secured the family a £2 million lump sum to help cover costs of treatments, therapies, specialist equipment and adaptations that they need to their home. Toby will also receive annual payments of up to £490,000 for the rest of his life.

"This is believed to be the largest annual payment ever agreed and will be managed by Irwin Mitchell ... to ensure that the funds last for the correct amount of time."

He said the payments added up to a £12 million settlement.

The spokesman said Toby - who was at today's hearing with his parents - suffered from cerebral palsy, epilepsy, had a severe learning disability, was registered blind and would need 24-hour care, support and rehabilitation for the rest of his life.

"Toby now has to live with cerebral palsy and has almost no movement in all four limbs," added the spokesman.

"After discovering the extent of Toby's injuries his parents Michelle and Matthew Hart instructed specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help secure a settlement to help provide the necessary funds to give Toby a better quality of life."

Angela Kirtley, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said Toby's parents had been "incredibly resilient".

"The mistakes made during his birth were unacceptable and have had a life-changing effect not just on Toby, but the entire family and all those close to them. He will be dependent on carers forever and it was vital that they received the support they needed," she said.

"We had previously secured interim payments to provide immediate relief and assistance but the final settlement now gives the family peace of mind that Toby will receive the best possible care and rehabilitation he needs for the rest of his life."

Mrs Hart added: "Although nothing can turn back the clock and undo the mistakes made during Toby's birth, it is a massive relief to know that his care and rehabilitation needs for the rest of his life will be taken care of by the final settlement.

"Being thrust into this situation without any warning when Toby was born opened our eyes to the lack of support for new parents of babies with birth injuries. In the first few years we had to wade through all the administration and systems to apply for things such as therapies and chairs to help him sit up - thankfully now we will be able to support him using the settlement.

"We are incredibly grateful to Irwin Mitchell for their support as we felt extremely isolated when we first left hospital. There was very little help available and more needs to be done to assist parents who suddenly find themselves having to care for a baby who has suffered a birth injury as we did.

"All the current support for parents is focused on being a good mother to a 'normal' healthy baby and the last thing we wanted was to be around other parents whose situation didn't bear any resemblance to our new lives. We constantly had to battle to get support, equipment and therapies that Toby needed and it just highlights how important the settlement is in ensuring that his quality of life is as comfortable as possible for the rest of his life."

She went on: "Midwives need to be fully aware and accountable for the consequences of their actions within the delivery room. For example, does the current midwifery training and 'updates' for qualified staff include meeting parents of children who had sustained life-changing injuries as a result of a mismanaged birth?

"Their practice and responsibility has to move away from the confines of the delivery room if the real impact and importance of their role is to be fully understood. There has to be a shift towards doing everything they can to prevent babies being born with brain damage."

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies told Mr and Mrs Hart at the hearing the she hoped the money would give the family a better quality of life.

"I know you have battled on Toby's behalf, " said the judge. "I hope that what this money does is to give you some peace of mind...

"There is at least in place some financial stability."

She added: "I know nothing can turn the clock back."

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