Lawyer Calls For Hospital To Prove Lessons Have Been Learnt Following Landmark Legal Battle For Answers
A Black Country man, who suffered severe brain damage as a result of hospital failures, has today received a settlement worth more than £6 million which will secure access to the care and rehabilitation he will need for the rest of his life.
Christopher Langford, now aged 23 from Tipton in the West Midlands has cerebral palsy caused by oxygen starvation at birth.
Today (Monday 21st March) the High Court in Birmingham approved a lump sum of more than £2.75 million plus annual payments to pay for his care.
Initially West Midlands Strategic Health Authority refused to admit liability for crucial delays in his delivery at Sandwell Hospital on 26th October 1987.
However in February 2009, a judge at the Royal Courts of Justice found that if Christopher had been born just six minutes earlier, he would have avoided the majority of his injuries.
A leading medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell solicitors said the landmark victory underlines the fact that when an unborn baby’s oxygen level drops, every second is crucial and hopes that hospitals will learn lessons from Christopher’s case.
Christopher’s mother, Amanda Langford, had a normal, healthy pregnancy but things started to go wrong during labour. When the CTG trace showed an abnormal foetal heartbeat, midwives called for an obstetrician but he failed to attend and the midwives had to deliver Christopher on their own.
Mandy Luckman, a partner with Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who represented Amanda and Christopher Langford, explained: “Although the Health Authority admitted that an obstetrician should have attended earlier, it had always been denied that it would have made a difference to the outcome.
“When an unborn baby’s oxygen levels start to drop every second is crucial and, as the CTG trace showed, Christopher was clearly in distress. At the liability hearing the Royal Court of Justice judge agreed that if Christopher had been born just 6 minutes earlier he would have suffered only mild brain damage. This was a landmark decision as it is believed to be one of the shortest negligent birth delays to be upheld by the courts and underlines just how vital it is for clinicians to act promptly when a baby becomes distressed during labour.
“As a result of the delays in his birth, Christopher has severe mobility and cognitive issues and he will never be able to work or live independently. Today’s settlement, approved by the High Court in Birmingham, should not be viewed as a ‘lottery win’ but will provide Christopher with financial security to pay for the lifetime of care he will need. It also provides his mother, Amanda, with the peace of mind that in the years ahead, no matter what happens to her, Christopher will always be well provided for.”
Commenting on today’s settlement, Mrs Langford said: “For many years the Health Authority led me to believe that the delays in Christopher’s birth were not responsible for his severe cerebral palsy. I took legal action because I was determined to prove that their mistake robbed my son of a normal life.
“Christopher is a very happy young man and has a real love of life but he naturally gets frustrated that he cannot do the things that most of us take for granted. When he was growing up he would have loved to do the things that other children consider to be everyday activities, like kicking a ball or learning to ride a bicycle.
“I am relieved that the settlement will mean Christopher will always be properly cared for, but no amount of money can ever give him the normal life he should have had. I really hope that the hospital has learned lessons made by its staff so that no other parent has to go through the heartache we have suffered.”