Leeds Family Back Campaign Over Legal Aid Cuts

Girl Left With Brain Damage Following Birth Complications


The parents of a young girl who suffered brain damage when her mother’s uterus ruptured during her delivery have joined a campaign to prevent the Government from cutting Legal Aid funding.

Ruby Curtis, now aged six, suffers from athetoid cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs and she suffers with involuntary movement. Her condition was caused due to staff failures during Ruby’s birth at St James Hospital, Leeds. The family, supported by medical law specialists at Irwin Mitchell, are pursuing legal action to recover funds to help pay for her care and rehabilitation.

Ruby’s mother Lisa claims that without vital Legal Aid funding, the family would not have been able to pursue action against the hospital in order to help Ruby access to the funds needed to provide the 24 hour care she requires.

Ruby has involuntary movements in her arms and legs, and requires help with all aspects of of daily living including personal care, feeding, play, and education. Ruby vocalises but has no clear speech, and uses a switch with her knee to operate her communication aid, all of which are permanent affects of her birth trauma.

Despite the significant physical disabilities, Ruby is very bright and uses a switch with her knee to operate her communication aids and a joy stick to operate her wheelchair. She learns quickly and is keen to improve and wants to embrace all possible opportunities.

Her mother, Lisa Curtis, attended St James Hospital, Leeds on 28 August 2005. There had been over-stimulation of her uterus due to medication use, but staff failed to recognise the rupture immediately which led to a delay in Ruby’s delivery.

Rachelle Mahapatra, a Partner and medical law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The challenge in Ruby’s case is ensuring that we are able to provide her with as much independence as possible in her life. This includes having full time professional carers so that Mum and Dad can be just that, to go to university, having friends and living as full a life as possible.

“The Hospital has admitted mistakes were made, and is working with Irwin Mitchell to agree a settlement of her claim to provide the care, rehabilitation and support that she requires for the rest of her life. It would not have been possible to get anywhere near this stage if Legal Aid had not been available to Lisa and her family.”

Ruby's mother Lisa said: "Ruby is an amazing little girl, and we are so proud of her. It's heartbreaking to see her unable to do so many of the things the majority of us take for granted."

“We want Ruby to experience as much as she can in life and we help her as best we can.  It’s just tragic to think that all of this came as a result of mistakes made in her delivery. These mistakes were avoidable.”

“Ruby’s condition affects every aspect of her life, and she needs assistance on a constant basis. Any cuts to Legal Aid will affect those who are most in need of help from accessing the law and will deprive the most vulnerable. I’d urge the Government to think again about plans to cut this vital funding.”