Young Cerebral Palsy Sufferer is Inspiration for Local Legal Centre

New cerebral palsy centre, Brimingham



A young cerebral palsy sufferer officially opened a new centre in the Black Country on Friday 10th August, aimed at improving legal access for local people involved in compensation claims.

Eight-year-old Owen Johnson from Dudley, who was left with cerebral palsy after hospital errors at birth, has been represented by Mandy Williams, a solicitor with the Birmingham office of national law firm, Irwin Mitchell. She was concerned about the lengthy journeys Owen and his mother, Sally, faced in order to attend the regular legal briefings and medical checks at Irwin Mitchell's Birmingham office.

Mandy was convinced that there had to be a more convenient way of arranging meetings for her Black Country-based clients and this inspired her to approach the University of Wolverhampton's School of Legal Studies. Their discussions led to the formation of an innovative joint venture - the Irwin Mitchell Black Country Client Facility based at the University's Centre for Professional Legal Studies.

In addition to providing Irwin Mitchell clients with convenient, modern meeting rooms with disabled access and on-site parking, the facility will also benefit the University's Law students.

They will have the opportunity to gain a valuable insight into personal injury casework and learn from the leading law firm's expertise.

Sally Johnson explained: "It wasn't always easy to travel to Irwin Mitchell's offices in Birmingham for meetings, particularly when Owen was younger and his mobility wasn't so good. Mandy has been so supportive as our solicitor and her idea of creating a local centre is typical of the way she always tries to go the extra mile to help clients. She has become more like a friend than a solicitor over the years and so Owen was delighted when he was asked to open the venue which his case helped inspire."

Owen was born on 18th April 1999 at Wordesley Hospital. During labour, hospital staff failed to examine an abnormal CTG trace that showed foetal distress. Owen was starved of oxygen and by the time he was born he was in a very poor condition and unable to breathe without aid for the first ten minutes. As a result he now has choreoathetoid cerebral palsy and although he has made significant progress the condition will permanently affect all aspects of his life.

Owen's case is still ongoing although a liability settlement in his favour was approved earlier this year by the High Court in Birmingham, against Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust and this now paves the way for a compensation settlement, which is expected to be worth several million  pounds. The family's solicitor, Mandy Williams, said: "Cases like Owen's can be highly complex and as a result often require many face-to-face meetings between the client, their legal representatives and independent experts. The new facility at the University of Wolverhampton is an ideal location for us to meet our clients in the Black Country and I'm particularly pleased that it has been established in time for Owen and Sally to directly benefit from it."

Brian Mitchell, Dean of the University of Wolverhampton's School of Legal Studies commented: "We believe this venture is the first of its kind in the West Midlands. This resource will benefit both the local community and our students who will have access to unrivalled expertise in personal injury law.

"We are committed to providing our students with a practical insight into the working of the law. That we can work with a firm of the calibre of Irwin Mitchell to enhance their employability whilst at the same time helping people such as Owen and Sally to realise their legal rights, is a commitment we are delighted to be able to make."