Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
£271,000 award following stillbirth.
A mother haunted by the memory of her baby daughter’s stillbirth has won more than £271,000 damages from the NHS.
Justyna Zeromska-Smith, 38, suffered massive emotional trauma when her baby, Megan, was found to be dead after an apparently normal pregnancy in May 2013.
Ms Zeromska-Smith was told Megan had no heartbeat after medics at Lincoln County Hospital started a CTG trace following her hospital admission to be induced, London’s High Court heard.
But she still had to endure 18 hours of labour until Megan - her first child - was delivered stillborn by forceps, said Mr Justice Spencer.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT) has admitted a breach of duty and Ms Zeromska-Smith was granted the award after a nine-day hearing.
Although she went on to have two more children, both sons, Mrs Zeromska-Smith remains tormented by the memory of Megan’s death.
She put in a claim for damages. ULHT admitted breach of duty, but strongly disputed the extent of the psychiatric damage she suffered.
In awarding the £271,901 compensation at The Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice Spencer ruled that she suffered “a prolonged, pathological grief disorder complicated by a separation anxiety and agoraphobia.”
The 38-year-old, from Lincolnshire, told the court she had “always dreamed of having a daughter” and, when the pre-birth scan showed she was expecting a girl, she realised her dreams were coming true.
Ms Zeromska-Smith and her husband, Mark, 58, agreed a name for their baby and decorated and prepared a nursery for her.
She said being mother to a girl had a “special significance” for her due to the strong bond she had with her own mother and her sisters.
And, although she felt elated when she fell pregnant for the second time in 2015, she was devastated when she learnt it would be a boy.
She stressed that she adores both her two sons but that Megan was irreplaceable.
Ms Zeromska-Smith said that, on top of everything else, she is now terrified of losing her two healthy sons and part of her damages award took account of this acute separation anxiety.
Her concerns about her offspring made her fearful of being apart from them for even short periods, and Mrs Zeromska-Smith explained that she wants her boys home-schooled.
Mrs Zeromska-Smith's two sons remained in a conference room nearby while she gave evidence and she had a monitor in the witness box to help her watch over them.
“I can’t focus. I don’t remember simple things like dates of appointments - I feel isolated, lonely and hopeless."
Mr Justice Spencer ruled that she had succumbed to severe depression between December 2015 to December 2016.
He found that, although she had recovered from her acute depression, she had yet get over her pathological grief disorder although, with luck, she should recover from this, and her other anxieties, within the next two years.
The judge concluded: “Mrs Zeromska-Smith will never be the same person she was before the stillbirth but that is normal for someone who has lost a child.”
Following the legal judgment, a ULHT spokesperson said: “The Trust has always accepted that aspects of the claimant’s antenatal care fell below the standard that she was entitled to expect.
"The Trust sincerely regrets these failings and the impact this has had on the claimant and her family.
“The Trust undertook an internal investigation shortly after the events in question in order to learn lessons and improve the care provided to patients.”