Family brings compensation claim against the MoD for cross-border negligence

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Jonathan Cloudsdale

Military Claims Senior Associate Solicitor

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On the 2nd of November 2022, The Supreme Court in London gave a long-awaited ruling that a family can bring a claim forward for childbirth injuries sustained in Germany in 2000.

The family of a young man who suffered catastrophic brain damage after complications during his birth spoke out of their relief, after a High Court Judge ruled that they can bring a claim for compensation against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Armed Forces Charity, SSAFA.

Harry Roberts was born on the 14th of June 2000 at the Allegemeines Krankenhaus hospital in Viersen, Germany – where his parents were living. The child’s parents were living abroad, as the father was serving overseas with the British Army. Sadly, Harry was left with the most severe form of cerebral palsy after his brain was deprived of oxygen due to delays during his delivery.

Returning to the UK

On their return to the UK the family filed their claim but the Defendants argued that they were out of time to do so.  At the initial hearing the Defendants argued in a hard-fought Court battle that under German Law Harry’s case was out of time and must be thrown out – which sadly, it was at the time.

But in a judgment handed down in 2020 at the High Court by Mrs Justice Alison Foster, DBE, it was found that while the claim should be brought under German Law given that’s where the injuries were sustained, to deny Harry the right to claim compensation under German Limitation Law would be disproportionate and cause him ‘undue hardship’.

The ruling went on to say that even under German Limitation Law, his parents did not acquire the required knowledge that there had been a deviation from the usual standard of care until the findings of the German hospital’s investigation were first made available to them 3 years after his birth. 

The family’s Medical Negligence Lawyer from Simpson Millar who specialise in Medical Negligence of all kinds, said the ruling meant the family were now in a position to bring a claim for negligence in order to secure a compensation package that would meet Harry’s current and future care needs.

The family’s representative explained that they were ‘relieved’ that they had now succeeded in their quest after what has been an ‘extremely difficult time for them’.

He said, “The parents have fought tirelessly over the past 20 years to ensure that Harry was treated fairly and not denied the right to compensation simply because he was born in a German hospital while his father loyally served his country overseas.

“Harry is now aged 19 and his parents remain resolute as ever to ensure that he has the care he needs. They have endured a long and stressful battle for justice in which every possible obstacle and delay tactics have been put in their way. They now look forward to engaging with the MoD and SSAFA to bring this long and protracted case to its conclusion.”

Lady Justice Foster, DBE paid special tribute to Mr and Mrs Roberts when she remarked, “I must recognise the dignity and grace with which both parents gave evidence concerning these deeply traumatic events. There was no murmur of complaint or dissatisfaction from either. They displayed what appears to me to have been extraordinary resolve and resilience throughout the hearing and, indeed, have done so since these events happened now almost 20 years ago.”

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Case Overview

In 2004 the family, who now live in St Helens, Merseyside, filed a negligence claim against the MoD and SSAFA alleging that the British midwife was negligent, including her failure to replace a CTG transducer which had become detached from the mother’s tummy; and her failure to replace a malfunctioning foetal scalp electrode and delays in seeking urgent assistance from the German doctors – meaning there was no effective foetal monitoring of Harry’s heartbeat.

As a result, his brain was starved of oxygen causing irreversible brain injury.

But sadly, the right to bring a claim for compensation to fund vital care was disputed by the MOD who argued that under German Law, Court proceedings were issued out of time, arguing that under German Law the 3-year limitation period runs from the parent’s knowledge of a potential claim, and the court papers were issued too late.

The legal position in England is very different to Germany in that the statute of limitations will not start to run against a claimant who lacks mental capacity because of the severity of the brain injury suffered. 

Surprisingly, the MOD and SSAFA were effectively seeking to “shut out’’ Harry’s claim by relying upon German Limitation Law.

In the judgment handed down at the High Court by Mrs Justice Alison Foster in 2020, it ruled that:

  • Application of German Limitation Law, when viewed under the microscope of the Foreign Limitations Act 1984, would cause Harry undue hardship
  • Even under German Limitation Law, the parents of Harry did not acquire knowledge that there had been a deviation from the usual standard of care, until the findings of the German hospital’s investigation were first made available to them 3 years after the birth of Harry. Therefore, the Court proceedings issued in December 2004 were not issued out of time. The defendants argued that the parents were fixed with knowledge as soon as Harry was born or no later than 8 months later when a Senior Physiotherapist informed them that their son had cerebral palsy and would never recover.

One of our Medical Negligence Lawyers continued “They are of course relieved that the defendant’s arguments on limitation have been rejected by the Judge and they can finally bring a claim for compensation in the Courts.

“As well as there being no limitation bar to Harry’s case, Mr and Mrs Roberts can take comfort in the fact that their perseverance in the pursuit of justice may help others in a similar situation to Harry, if they can prove, as they did, that the operation of foreign limitation periods would result in undue hardship.

“We sincerely hope that the MoD and SSAFA now engage in negotiations as part of the next phase of this process so that we can secure a care package as quickly as possible that will mean a better life for Harry, and some much-needed respite for his family.”

During a four-day Trial which took place at the High Court in London, the Judge heard that Harry requires round the clock care and communicates through an advanced computer which he operates through eye movement.

Their lawyer added, “The extent of Harry’s injuries mean he has required regular treatment and surgery, is entirely wheelchair dependent and attends a local Special Needs School where he was voted Head Boy by his fellow students. He loves watching sport and his bedroom is a shrine to his beloved St Helens RLFC’”.

How Simpson Millar Can Help you 

If your child has Cerebral Palsy because of a mistake made before, during or just after their birth by a midwife or doctor, you’ll likely be worried about the future – but Simpson Millar can help you, like we did for Harry’s family.

Our Medical Negligence Solicitors understand that your first priority will be the wellbeing of your family and new baby, so placing a claim will be the last of your worries. Our job is to take away as much of the pressure of the legal claims process as we can, so you can focus on what matters most.

We know that this will be an overwhelming time for you, and you might be unsure about where to start in terms of accessing support and making arrangements for your child’s care. Our specialist Cerebral Palsy Solicitors will outline the help that is available to you as well as securing you access to lifetime support. Call us on 0808 239 0244 and let us help you.


Crown Office Chambers. (2022, November 14). Supreme Court's Judgment Nov22. Retrieved from

Ministry of Defence. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from

Army. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. (n.d.). UKSC 2020/0154. Retrieved from

NHS. (n.d.). Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved from

Liverpool Echo. (2020, April 26). Family Win Right to Claim Against Ministry of Defence After 17-Year Battle Over Son's Brain Injury. Retrieved from

St Helens Star. (2020, April 27). Family Win Right to Bring Claim Against Ministry of Defence After 17-Year Battle Over Son's Brain Injury. Retrieved from

EBME. (n.d.). Cardiotocography (CTG). Retrieved from

Jonathan Cloudsdale

Military Claims Senior Associate Solicitor

Jonathan is a Senior Associate Solicitor specialising in Military accident and injury claims. He runs his own caseload of military personal injury cases helping clients with a variety of case types.

Jonathan also has a background in Industrial Disease Claims helping clients who had experienced illness and diseases as a result of their work.

He has secured 6 figure settlements for clients whilst guiding, advising and keeping them informed throughout the process.

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