Lifelong Specialist Support for Teen with Erb’s Palsy

Author:
Sarah Holdsworth
Senior Associate Solicitor, Medical Negligence Claims
Date:
17/09/2021

Rosie Paffett was left with lifelong disabilities after being injured during her birth.

We helped her get the specialist care, support and rehab she needs to live with her condition.

Tracey Paffett was expecting a little girl in 2002 and went for regular check-ups at St Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth during her pregnancy.

Nothing unusual was spotted until 32 weeks, when it was found her baby’s weight was slightly above what was expected.

Following growth scans, she was told there was no evidence to suggest labour should be induced early, so an induction was arranged for her due date in May. However, a note stating “beware shoulder dystocia” was included in the obstetrician’s instructions.

Her shoulders did end up becoming stuck during the delivery and pressure had to be applied to free her. But this led to baby Rosie sustaining a left-sided Erb’s Palsy injury, which would have lifelong consequences.

What Were the Effects of the Injury?

Rosie suffers aches and discomfort in her left shoulder and weakness in her arm. This means she’s unable to lift or carry with her left arm, and needs help with basic tasks such as styling her hair, preparing food and carrying out household chores.

She also has muscle wasting, and her left arm is 2.5 cm shorter than her right arm, which has affected her gait as she stands.

Rosie has to carry out home exercises and have regular treatments to manage her condition.

But dealing with her injury has been difficult, and Rosie is often extremely conscious of the height of her shoulder, the position of her arm, and a scar that was left after a shoulder operation.

It’s likely that these symptoms will put Rosie at a disadvantage when she looks for work, and affect her home life and leisure activities for the rest of her life.

Taking Legal Action

Rosie’s mother Tracey decided to take legal action against Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, acting as her Litigation Friend as Rosie was still a minor.

Tracey originally used Legal Aid to bring the claim, but this was withdrawn after the NHS Trust refused to admit responsibility. We then agreed to take the case on, acting on a No Win, No Fee basis.

We approached the NHS Trust, stating that several mistakes had been made during Tracey’s pregnancy and Rosie’s birth, which led to Rosie being injured. For example:

  • Tracey was never advised of the shoulder dystocia risk, even though the warning was included in her notes
  • There were no discussions about what other steps could be taken to reduce the chances of Rosie being injured during the birth
  • Tracey wasn’t consulted about other birth options, such as having an elective caesarean section
  • There was excessive pulling and stretching of Rosie’s head in order to release her shoulder during the delivery

Tracey should have been advised of the risk, the potential implications of shoulder dystocia if it happened, and presented with different delivery options.

Had this happened, she could have carefully weighed up the risks and options, and chosen to have an elective caesarean section, thereby avoiding the injury entirely.

Instead, when the emergency occurred, the midwives excessively pulled and stretched Rosie’s head to try and release the arm, which damaged the nerves in Rosie’s upper arm.

We also arranged several independent medical assessments from specialists including a midwife, obstetrician, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, educational psychologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.

These experts could give their professional opinion on the care that was given during the pregnancy and birth, and how the Erb’s Palsy injury had affected Rosie. This would help us identify what specialist care, support and rehabilitation she would need.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust continued to deny responsibility, so the case was listed for Trial.

The Outcome For Rosie

Thankfully, we managed to agree a settlement with the NHS Trust at a Joint Settlement meeting, which meant the case didn’t have to go to Court.

Rosie, now aged 19, was awarded £450,000 in compensation, so she can now access the physiotherapy and psychological therapy she needs, as well as further specialist care such as pain management in later life.

The settlement also allows Rosie to buy, maintain and replace specialist items she’ll need to minimise the effects of her disability.

This should make a huge difference to her quality of life, particularly as her neck, back and shoulder problems are likely to get worse over time.

Rosie has now secured a job as a nursery nurse, and although her disability means there are limits in what she can do at work, her employer is very understanding.

We wish Rosie and her family well for the future.

Rosie's Mum, Tracey, said:

“We have had a really good experience with Simpson Millar, in particular with Sarah Holdsworth. She has helped guide us through our whole claim smoothly and [was] very informative always. Any questions I’ve had, Sarah has always managed to answer. We also had a good outcome on our claim for our daughter. Thank you so much.” 

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