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Teen disabled after birth wins landmark £8m compensation

By Victoria O'Hara

A massive £8m compensation settlement to a severely disabled teenage boy will help to transform the quality of his life.

The payout - heralded as "landmark" and possibly the biggest damages case of its kind in Northern Ireland - was made by the Belfast Trust.

The case was finally agreed yesterday in a medical negligence settlement at the High Court.

The boy - who can't be identified and known only as KD - is quadriplegic, has cerebral palsy and requires 24-hour specialist care.

His condition developed after medical mistakes were made during treatment for an infection at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after his birth.

The Belfast Health Trust initially contested the case, but later admitted liability in 2012.

Solicitor Damian Deazley, of Higgins Hollywood Deazley law firm, which represented the family, said the boy's condition was severe and his medical needs were very specialist.

He added: "The family will be very relieved. The level of therapy and care he required were simply not available through the National Health Service."

Although his family did everything to support him, Mr Deazley said the boy's quality of life was very limited.

"The purpose of the proceedings was to bring a care package to him that would meet his physical and developmental needs for his lifetime."

The compensation will fund a 24-hour care package, delivery of annual therapies and the use of advanced technology in his home. This will include providing him with a 'smart' chair.

Mr Deazley added that the boy, although severely disabled, had a great love of music,

"The care package will also provide occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and music therapy.

"The smart chair is a wheelchair that he can control himself but operates on tracks laid throughout two or three rooms of the house.

"This will give him the freedom to be able to move from room to room by himself will give him a form of independence.

"The intensive expert therapy and use of technology will add greatly to his development and quality of life into adulthood."

Experts were also consulted about the calculation of future care costs and advice on financial planning.

Mr Deazley said the whole case had been incredibly challenging for the family, but they were relieved that it had now been settled. He added: "I think it is fair to say that as of this morning there was a huge sigh of relief."

The case was initially funded by legal aid but the Belfast Health Trust is to pay their legal costs as part of the settlement.

Mr Deazley said the case highlights the importance of legal aid.

"There is no way this case would ever have come to court without legal aid and with the successful conclusion to it, this case if anything underlines the importance of the availability of legal aid to cases of this nature.

"I think while there are proposals before the Department of Justice to review the availability one would have to consider very carefully how those would impact on a young man such as this in future circumstances."

Background

Belfast Health Trust will pay a £8m compensation settlement to a severely disabled teenager after his family sued it for medical negligence. The settlement is believed to be one of the biggest of its kind in Northern Ireland. His care package will include, among other things, occupational therapy, music therapy, speech and language therapy, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy from a specialist trained team. The case was initially funded by legal aid but the trust is to pay the family's legal costs as part of the settlement.

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