Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Trust to pay £8m landmark compensation to severely disabled Belfast teenager

By Alan Erwin

A severely disabled Belfast teenager who suffered catastrophic injuries as a baby is to receive up to £8 million in compensation.

The landmark pay-out package was agreed today in a medical negligence settlement at the High Court.

It is believed to be the biggest damages case of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The boy had been admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for treatment to an infection shortly after his birth.

But because the infection was not properly dealt with he suffered spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy.   

He also developed epilepsy, learning difficulties and requires round-the-clock specialist medical care.

Granted anonymity and referred to only as KD in court papers, he now has limited mobility and cognitive functioning.

Liability in the action brought by his mother against the Belfast Social Health and Care Trust was admitted in 2012 as the case was about to go to trial.

Since then further hearings before Lord Justice Gillen have focused on issues around damages and structuring a financial package to deal with KD's future care needs.

The boy's future home is to be specially adapted, with advanced technology used to help look after him for the rest of his life.

Solicitor Damian Deazley of Higgins Hollywood Deazley law firm, who represented KD's family, said: "This is a momentous day for them.

"Whilst it has taken a long time, it's a huge relief for the family that as a result of this settlement we have achieved he will receive long-term financial and developmental care which will take him through the rest of his lifetime."

Despite the severity of KD's injuries, Mr Deazley described him as an "engaging, lively and delightful young man".

The teenager has a particular love for all forms of music, the lawyer added.

He told how Lord Justice Gillen had also expressed admiration for how the family had handled themselves throughout the proceedings.

As part of special plans to help KD cope a "smart wheelchair" which runs along tracks laid under the floor will be used at the family's home. 

"His care package will include, among other things, occupational therapy, music therapy, speech and language therapy, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy from a specialist trained team," Mr Deazley added. 

"Our experts believe that the intensive expert therapy and use of technology will add greatly to his development and quality of life into adulthood."

All costs in bringing the action are to be paid by the Trust.

Mr Deazley also stressed that without legal aid funding KD's family could not have sued and his quality of life would have remained extremely limited.

"This case is a significant example for the argument in favour of retaining civil legal aid for personal injury claims," he said.

During the case medical experts and  technology advisors were enlisted to provide evidence on what was required for KD's ongoing treatment and everyday living requirements.  A leading UK statistician and tax experts were also consulted about the indexing of future care costs and advice on financial planning. 

The compensation is to be paid out to the boy on an ongoing stepped payment basis for the rest of his life.

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