Sunderland girl to get multi-million pound payout after hospital admits causing catastrophic injuries

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A SCHOOLGIRL is set to receive multi-million pound damages after Sunderland Royal Hospital admitted liability for catastrophic injuries caused during her birth.

Sophie Steele, seven, from Sunderland was born at 32 weeks on December 2007.

During labour, the medics made a decision to take a fetal blood sample from the crown of her head.

Their actions caused a subdural haematoma in Sophie’s brain which has resulted in extensive and life-limiting injuries.

Sophie, a pupil at Oxclose Community Academy in Washington, has cerebral palsy affecting all four limbs so she cannot walk and has to use a wheelchair; she is unable to speak and has difficulty in breathing.

City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust accepted liability for Sophie’s injuries in November 2014.

Sophie’s father, Andrew Steele, 42, said, “There is nothing to celebrate here. I knew there was something wrong the day Sophie was born, and have waited seven years for the hospital to admit they made a mistake, but you can’t be pleased to get a letter saying ‘yes we hurt your daughter’.

“The damages will make a massive difference to Sophie’s life, but we would live in a tent if we could see Sophie running around with her friends and able to call our names when she needs something.”

In a letter to Sophie’s parents in January 2015, Ken Bremner, chief executive, of the Trust, said: “It was not appropriate for fetal blood sampling to have been performed on a baby at 32 weeks gestation and that sampling caused an injury which …caused Sophie’s brain injury. I am very sorry.”

The family’s solicitor is Angela Curran, a nationally recognised medical negligence expert from Burnetts.

Having secured an admission of liability, Angela is now working on establishing the level of damages which will be required to ensure Sophie will have care and support for the rest of her life.

It is expected that the damages award will be millions of pounds.

Sophie’s mother Donna Tate, 33, added, “In 2007, I saw a story in the Sunderland Echo about Jensen Carter and read how Angela had helped him.

“Once we told Angela about Sophie, she has never stopped fighting for us. If one family sees this story and it helps them to find out the truth about their child, it will have been worth it.”

Angela said: “The decision to carry out this procedure on Sophie was disastrous. The skulls of babies at 32 weeks are extremely fragile and the risk of serious injury is huge.

“This damages award will ensure that Sophie has all the care, therapy and equipment essential to maximise her quality of life. Andrew and Donna would also like to see the Trust implement a detailed protocol for fetal blood sampling in pre term babies to ensure that no other baby suffers the same injuries as Sophie.”

In order that Sophie’s complex care needs are fully evaluated, the process of agreeing the financial settlement is expected to take approximately 12 months.

Once financial settlement is approved by the High Court, Sophie’s award will be paid into the Court of Protection and administered by a Court-appointed Deputy to ensure her substantial care needs are met.

Picture Caption: Sophie (front left) with parents Andrew Steele and Donna Tate and brother Aiden.