Teenager awarded compensation after meningitis negligence claim

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A teenager who suffered severe brain damage caused by meningitis has been awarded compensation against a hospital trust which failed to act quickly enough to diagnose the condition.

Lauren Ansell was left profoundly deaf and with permanent disabilities and communication difficulties as a result of bacterial meningitis which she contracted when she was just eight months old. Clinical negligence specialist solicitor Sue Jarvis of law firm BL Claims Solicitors acted for Lauren in a negligence claim against West Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust. Her case was that staff at Hemel Hempstead General Hospital did not act quickly enough to diagnose her condition.

After an earlier hearing at which the family and trust settled the issue of liability, the trust issued a public apology and admitted that Lauren, now 15, did not receive the treatment she was entitled to expect.

Today the Royal Courts of Justice approved a £6.3m compensation package that will help take care of Lauren’s needs for the rest of her life. The money will be paid into the Court of Protection and used for Lauren’s benefit.

Sue Jarvis said: “This is an excellent outcome for Lauren after a complex and lengthy case. Lauren’s disabilities and learning difficulties are so severe that she is unlikely to ever earn her own living.  “She has been lovingly cared for by her family but it was important to ensure her long-term needs would be met.

“This settlement will ensure that Lauren is provided for throughout the rest of her life, particularly when her family are no longer able to care for her.”

Lauren’s mother, who at the time lived in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, had taken her baby daughter to her GP in January 1999 with a persistent high temperature. The doctor was so concerned about her condition that he arranged for her to be admitted to Hemel Hempstead General Hospital.  It was Lauren's case that staff at the Hospital failed to appreciate how ill she was and tried to send her home. Her mother Tracy realised that Lauren was seriously ill and it was only at her insistence that she was kept in hospital overnight. It was Lauren's case that she did not receive appropriate investigations or treatment and her condition deteriorated so that she developed meningitis and suffered brain damage before her condition was diagnosed.

The Trust admitted that if Lauren had been treated with the appropriate intravenous antibiotics on the day of admission she would have avoided permanent damage.

The meningitis has left Lauren with profound deafness and, despite a cochlear implant, she is left with severe communication problems and her speech is very difficult to understand. Lauren also has problems with behaviour, coordination and balance as well as learning difficulties and dyspraxia. She will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life, although the money from the settlement will help her achieve a degree of independence.

At a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 15 November, the court approved that judgment be entered for Lauren and ordered that she will receive 95% of the full value of her multimillion pound claim. Today’s approval of the settlement is the final stage of the process.

Lauren and her family now live in East Sussex. Lauren’s mother Tracy Dixon said: “It has been a long road to get to this point but now this is settled we are able to be sure that Lauren will be taken care of for the rest of her life. This was all about making sure her needs could be met in the long term.

“Sue from Blake Lapthorn has been fantastic and a great support to our family over the years. I would like other families in this situation to know that there are options available to them if they want to pursue this kind of claim.”

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If you would like to talk to someone and discuss a potential claim please call us on 0344 620 6600 anytime between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or if you would prefer you can email us at info@blclaims.co.uk