Steven and Sharon Wright from Todmorden, West Yorkshire have been awarded £37,000 after a failed vasectomy resulted in the ‘wrongful birth’ of their third child.
The low settlement figure comes after a ruling by the House of Lords in 1999 in response to a similar case that changed the law, removing the right to compensation for the cost of bringing up a child.
Specialist clinical negligence solicitor, Janet Johnson of Donns LLP, who represented the couple said: “I believe that the ruling from the House of Lords which limits damages goes against one of the fundamental principles of law - the law should have the power to return the Wrights to the situation they would have been in but for the negligence. Had the test results been interpreted properly and the correct advice given, the Wrights would not have to pay the extra costs of bringing up a child, which is directly attributable to the Hospital’s negligence.
“Prior to 2000, these types of cases were typically awarded upwards of £100,000 - although not as high, I believe that the final settlement figure is a substantial improvement on the ‘tariff award’ imposed by the House of Lords limiting pain and suffering claims to £15,000.”
Claims are now limited to:
· Pain, discomfort and inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy and birth;
· Additional medical expenses;
· Clothes for the mother during pregnancy;
· Equipment on the birth of the baby;
· Loss of earnings during pregnancy and birth.
Mr & Mrs Wright, both 33, had taken the decision to limit the size of their family to two children. They opted for a vasectomy and Steven Wright underwent the operation at Rochdale Infirmary performed by Mr Mohamed Kourah, consultant urologist on 7th September 2001.
Following this, Steven Wright submitted a number of sperm samples in order to confirm infertility. The tests of these samples confirmed that he was still fertile which indicated that the vasectomy had failed. However, the hospital confirmed, in writing, that Mr Wright had been rendered infertile by the operation. The Wrights were advised in the letter that they should stop using contraceptive measures - information that was given negligently as the results of the tests showed Mr Wright still to be fertile.
Later in 2002, Sharon Wright fell pregnant - the news devastated the couple. In June 2003, on the birth of their third child, Steven Wright became anxious and depressed. As a result of the pregnancy, Sharon Wright suffered complications including severe abdominal pain and asthma, she also developed a significant psychiatric reaction to the pregnancy and birth, and post-natal depression, for which she was prescribed antidepressants. Her symptoms were so severe, she was, and remains, unable to work and has lost her job.
The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust which runs Rochdale Infirmary did not admit full liability until January 2004 and agreed to pay out £37,000 to the Wrights in June 2006 after previous unreasonable settlement offers were rejected.
Steven Wright commented: “We were both devastated when we discovered Sharon was pregnant, we had geared our whole future around our two children and had planned not to have any more - our rights have been taken away, you just don’t expect these things to happen.
“I was aware that these types of operation are not always 100% successful and would have had an additional operation if I thought there was a problem but I was never given the opportunity.
“We did discuss an abortion but how can you terminate the product of a loving relationship? It just didn’t seem right.
“Of course the settlement will help and will be used wisely but the amount is insignificant when you compare it with what we have had to spend in the last few years to support our family. Sharon has already lost her job and her pension; we have had to double the size of our mortgage just to cope. It’s not fair that we are in this situation because of someone else’s negligence and we are being kept there because of the law.”
Sharon Wright added: “I just want an apology for what has happened, my life has been ruined and I have lost all the confidence I once had. There seems to be no respite to the way I feel. I suffered a breakdown at work and have since had to leave, I have sought counselling but am currently on a waiting list - I just feel that my life has hit an all-time low.”
Janet Johnson continued: “I really feel for the couple in this case. The Trust did not enter into reasonable negotiations on a settlement until January 2006 and this two-year delay exacerbated the situation, in particular Sharon’s anxiety and depression. The evidence supports claims that her condition would have been less severe and would have been resolved sooner had the litigation concluded earlier.
“These types of cases are always traumatic due to their emotive nature. Through the hospital’s negligence, the Wrights lost their freedom to plan their family and the opportunity to live their lives in the way they had planned - the whole family will have to live with the repercussions for the rest of their lives.”
Vicki Baxter, Joanne Fletcher-Wall or Alex Henshall at Bell Pottinger North (01625) 506444 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
Janet joined Donns in December 2004, having qualified as a solicitor in 1998 at Irwin Mitchell. Janet has specialised in clinical negligence for over 9 years.
She specialises in high value and complex injury work. She has clients with cerebral palsy and other forms of brain injury, whose claims require dependency and complex loss of earnings calculations. She has been involved in a number of cases with values in excess of £1million.
Many of Janet’s cases involve traumatic circumstances and her work covers a range of areas including birth injury, neurology, gynaecology, brain injury, fatal accidents involving both adults and children and failure to diagnose cancer.
On 1st May 2004 Janet was appointed as a member of the prestigious Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel. This recognises those lawyers who provide a very high level of expertise in handling clinical negligence cases. Janet is also a member of the Association for Personal Injury Lawyers and a member of Manchester Law Society
Donns LLP is recognised as one of the leading specialist personal injury law firms in the UK, at the forefront of personal injury litigation dealing with claims both in the UK and abroad.
They provide expert legal advice in all areas of personal injury, accident and clinical negligence cases to ensure that they secure the maximum compensation in the shortest possible time. The firm delivers exceptional levels of client service through their highly trained and experienced legal professionals and cost effective approach.
With over 35 years experience in the personal injury marketplace they have an enviable reputation for providing quality legal services. They have attained and held both the Investors in People (IIP) standard in 1999 and the Lexcel quality mark in 2001.
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