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Six-month-old baby sustains serious brain injury after delay in diagnosis     

Baby with pneumococcal meningitis was incorrectly diagnosed with a chest infection

Reuben* was born a healthy baby at 41 weeks by a normal vaginal delivery. However, when he was 25 weeks old, he became very unwell; he was feverish and lethargic but irritable when picked up.

His parents took him to an out of hours doctor who diagnosed a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics. Two days later, as Reuben had not improved, his father took him to their GP surgery. Despite his worsening presentation, a second GP supported the diagnosis of a chest infection and advised that Reuben continue taking the oral antibiotics and paracetamol.

Five days later, Reuben suffered a seizure and was taken to hospital by ambulance where IV antibiotics were immediately commenced for a suspected diagnosis of pneumococcal meningitis. A lumbar puncture confirmed the diagnosis.

Reuben had two further prolonged seizures, the second of which caused him to require intubation and ventilation. As a result of the delay in diagnosing meningitis, the delayed admission to hospital and delayed commencement of IV antibiotics, Reuben has been left severely brain damaged.

He has a severe developmental delay, suffers with epilepsy, has a dense right hemiplegia and little verbal communication. He will require life-long support from specialists for management of his motor disorders with input from physio and occupational therapists. Reuben will have a mental age of 4-5 years as an adult and will require life-long care day and night as well as suitably adapted accommodation.

Reuben’s parents first contacted another firm of solicitors about his claim nine years previously, but court proceedings had still not been issued by the end of 2017.

Potter Rees Dolan took over conduct of the case in March 2018 and issued and served proceedings by October 2018. The case proceeded to a trial on breach and causation only in June 2022 but a mediation in May 2022 led to settlement of the claim.

A compensation award of £12 million was approved by the court in early June 2022.

Lesley Herbertson, Partner in clinical negligence at Potter Rees Dolan, who acted for Reuben, said:

I am so pleased that we were able to quickly resolve Reuben’s case after his parents asked us to become involved in 2018. They have provided their son with dedicated care and support over a difficult 18 years and it is good to know that there are now funds available to help provide for Reuben’s future needs.

* The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Lesley Herbertson is a Partner within Potter Rees Dolan's Clinical Negligence department. If you have any questions relating to this case study or clinical negligence generally and wish to speak with Lesley, please call our free phone on 0800 027 2557. Alternatively, you can contact Lesley directly through her profile page on our website.

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