Lawyers representing a brave 11-year-old girl, who was left facing a lifetime of acute disability by a negligent delay in her delivery at an NHS hospital, have achieved an £8.1 million settlement of her claim, enough to fund the lifetime of care that she will need.
Amber Atkins’ mother, Lyn, had had a trouble-free pregnancy until she was admitted in labour to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in May 2002. However, medics failed to pick up signs of increasing foetal distress and critical minutes ticked by before she gave birth. Amber’s lawyers argued that, had she been brought into the world just 10 minutes earlier, she would have escaped serious injury.
However, oxygen starvation in those final few minutes caused grave brain injury and Amber – whilst retaining a bright mind and a sunny personality – was left utterly dependent on the selfless care of her mother and father, Jason. Although she can express herself well and attends a mainstream school, where she receives specialist teaching support, she suffers from cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs. She will always be dependent on a wheelchair, although she can use a joystick and writes by using her left hand to operate a keyboard.
Through her mother, Amber sued the hospital’s managers, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust, who admitted liability at an early stage and whose lawyers issued a public apology. The Court approved a settlement whereby Amber will receive a £2.8 million lump sum, plus annual, index-linked and tax free payments to cover the enormous costs of her care for as long as she lives. Those payments will start at £125,000-a-year, before rising to £208,500-a-year when she reaches adulthood. The overall settlement had been valued at £8,116,000.
Approving the settlement, the judge said: “From reading the documents I have a clear picture in my mind of Amber and her undoubted personality. I do not underestimate for one minute the hard work and determination of her parents in caring for her. It is no doubt attributable to their care that Amber is such a happy and fulfilled little girl. Whilst they can in no way compensate Amber for all that she has lost, I hope that the damages will provide her and her family with the best possible quality of life in the future.”