For personal injury lawyers, negotiating and risk assessment skills are just as crucial as their knowledge of the law or their ability as advocates. That was certainly so in a case concerning a seven-year-old girl who was a baby when she was struck down by a devastating bout of pneumococcal septicaemia and meningitis.
As a consequence of the infection, which struck when she was approaching her first birthday, the girl sustained a catastrophic brain injury. Severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy will always affect every aspect of her life and development. A clinical negligence claim was lodged against the NHS trust that bore responsibility for her care at the relevant time.
Meningitis is notoriously difficult to diagnose but, after intensive negotiations, the trust agreed to pay 87.5 per cent of the full value of her damages claim. A further round-table meeting yielded a final settlement of the case, whereby the trust agreed to pay her a lump sum of £4.2 million, plus annual, index-linked payments towards the costs of her care for life. The settlement was calculated to have an overall capitalised value of £13.4 million.
Approving the settlement, the High Court noted that there were issues in the case, not least in respect of her life expectancy, that could have been decided either way had the case been the subject of a contested trial. The compromise of such issues that was reached represented a very good resolution in a desperately sad situation. The level of energy her parents and wider family put into caring for her was a testament to their strength of character.