Severely disabled woman wins £4.2m compensation

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A WOMAN left with severe learning difficulties due to hospital mismanagement of her birth has won more than £4 million in compensation more than 40 years later.

Susanne Turner, 45, was left needing a lifetime of care after Buchanan Street Hospital, in St Leonards, delayed a Caesarian section during her mother, Sandra’s, labour in 1967.

Her entitlement to compensation went unmet until her parents, now retired, read the story of a similar case in a women’s magazine.

They contacted lawyers who mounted what is one of the furthest dating-back cases of its kind.

The NHS authority responsible for the now-closed hospital, which was shut down in the 1990s, admitted liability for the brain damage Susanne sustained and a High Court judge this week approved a £4.2 million damages settlement to pay for a lifetime of care.

Speaking after the hearing, Susanne’s father, Christopher, and his wife said: “What we feel is a sense of relief, knowing that Susanne’s settlement will fund her care for the rest of her life and that she can now lead a fulfilled and happy life to the best of her potential.

“She has been denied many opportunities because of her learning difficulties but we now feel we have done the best we can to ensure her future.”

The court heard Susanne’s delivery on April 28, 1967 was mistakenly delayed by staff at the long-closed maternity unit, meaning the unborn baby was starved of oxygen and not breathing when born.

She was resuscitated several minutes later, but the oxygen deprivation to her brain caused catastrophic brain damage which has left her with permanent learning difficulties and needing full-time care.

Susanne, of Wittersham, near Tenterden, Kent, has a low mental age, but has not let that stop her becoming a very keen artist, who displays her work at the Rainbow Gallery run by the Canterbury Oast Trust.

Her parents have cared for her all of her life, but realised they may be entitled to compensation after reading a magazine article about a similar case several years ago.

High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, praised the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority for how quickly it admitted responsibility for Susanne’s injuries after the claim was made.

David Balcombe QC, for the authority, told the court: “I express in public an unreserved apology to Mr and Mrs Turner and express profound sympathy on behalf of the authority for the injuries that befell their daughter.

“We acknowledge that no amount of compensation is going to turn the clock back, but we do hope that the settlement will ensure that Miss Turner is given financial security in the future.”

Approving the settlement, which will take the form of annual payments and a lump sum payment to pay for a specially-adapted home for Susanne, the judge paid tribute to Mr and Mrs Turner’s ‘love and devotion’.

Speaking outside court, Mr and Mrs Turner’s solicitor, Trefine Maynard, of Ashton KCJ, said the case dated back further than any her firm had seen before. She added: “Like many parents in a similar position, Susanne’s parents, together with support from their younger daughter, have cared for their daughter coping as best they could.

“They had no idea that they could seek help through legal channels. It was a chance reading of a story in a magazine that made them think about what might have gone wrong at Susanne’s birth.

“As time went on Mr and Mrs Turner had become more and more worried about Susanne’s long-term future and who would look after her in the long-term as both they and she got older. It was obvious she would need someone to look after and protect her throughout her life.

“This case is unusual in that the original injury occurred so long ago. Usually injury claims have to be brought within three years of the accident occurring.

“However, where the person who has been injured is a child, or lacks mental capacity to initiate a case for themselves, as in Susanne’s case, the rules are far more flexible. This is why we have been able to help Susanne.”