Cerebral palsy sufferer looks forward to multi-million pound clinical negligence settlement
A 19-year-old Sunderland man who has battled against severe cerebral palsy since birth is looking forward to increased independence after a major court decision went in his favour.
Andrew Dixon, of Grangetown, has been wheelchair-bound all his life - he has cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs and is unable to talk. He relies heavily on his parents Derek and Linda for support - they have spent only ten nights apart in almost 20 years.
Now, though, the family is delighted after a major victory in the clinical negligence action they have brought against Sunderland Hospital, which should result in a multi-million pound settlement.
The hospital trust consented to judgment being entered in Andrew's favour, which effectively means it has accepted full responsibility for Andrew's injury. Now all that remains to be done is for lawyers to assess the level of compensation he will receive.
The Dixon family has fought for 11 years to access adequate levels of support for Andrew and only made significant progress after securing the help of Newcastle law firm Irwin Mitchell a few months ago.
A trial will now be held to determine the value of damages which will be awarded unless a settlement is reached out of court. Any damages will be kept in a trust and managed by the Court of Protection, which sanctions all major spending activity for someone in Andrew's position.
The Dixons are now looking to move out of their terraced cottage to a larger house which will allow Andrew to have his own space, while they will be able to afford better equipment such as a more advanced electric wheelchair so he can get around on his own, together with communication aids and an appropriate vehicle.
Andrew's dad Derek, who works at Sunderland College's Bede Centre, said: "We hope this will make a huge difference to the quality of Andrew's life - he is 20 years old in August and, like anyone of that age, does not want to be around his parents all the time.
"It will benefit Andrew a lot to be able to have his own space and become far more independent - he likes to be with friends and is attending Tyneside Metropolitan College. He loves the drama classes.
"With all this in mind the decision has been very well-timed and we are grateful for the help from Irwin Mitchell and the way they made such rapid progress for us. I wish we had gone to them much sooner.
"It was important that we never gave up even when we seemed to be making little progress until this year. It has never been about the money - we just want to secure Andrew's future and make him as happy as we can.
Mr Dixon said the family - including Andrew's two older sisters - had been planning to move from their terraced cottage to a bigger house when Andrew was born, but that his condition meant they could not afford to do so.
"People don't realise how much more expensive everything is - everything you buy has to be specialised and is incredibly costly. We won't be moving far away as Andrew's friends and carer Gloria Lawton live very close, but we should be able to find somewhere that will give everyone more space," he added.
The Dixons intend to use an interim award of compensation which Irwin Mitchell helped them obtain through the courts to purchase a suitable house which will be held in trust for Andrew.
Angela Curran, partner and birth trauma specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said "Andrew's legal claim was based on the fact that his mother's labour was mis-managed and not monitored appropriately resulting in Andrew being compromised and sustaining a brain injury."
She said: "While Mrs Dixon was in labour, Andrew's heart rate became dangerously low and Mrs Dixon was given drugs to speed up the labour but these unfortunately made the situation worse.
"No amount of money can compensate for what Andrew has lost and what the family has been through but soon, via the Court of Protection, they should have access to funds that will allow Andrew to far more independence and higher quality of life.
"The Dixons are a wonderful family and it has been a pleasure to be able to act so quickly to help them secure a better future for Andrew. Hopefully we can agree terms on a financial settlement pretty soon so that Andrew can access all the technology that will open the world up to him."
More information about cerebral palsy compensation claims here.