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'Contaminated Epidural' Mum's Compensation Hopes Boosted

Compensation claims normally have to be lodged within three years of an accident and seeking prompt legal advice is therefore essential. However, that time limit was waived in the case of a young mother who claimed that her life was wrecked by a contaminated epidural injection she received whilst in labour with her first child.

The mother was given the pain-killing injection before the caesarean delivery of her baby in 2004. She later endured a range of serious medical conditions, including hydrocephalus – more commonly known as water on the brain – and arachnoiditis, an inflammation affecting the brain and spinal cord. She continued to suffer disabling neurological symptoms in her lower spine and legs.

However, it was not until 2014 that she launched clinical negligence proceedings against the NHS trust which bore responsibility for the hospital where the injection was administered. In those circumstances, the trust argued that her claim had been lodged far too late and should be struck out on grounds of delay.

The High Court acknowledged that the trust's defence to the claim was bound to be prejudiced by the passage of time. However, it noted that it was not until 2012 that a medical expert suggested for the first time that the probable cause of the woman's disabilities was contamination of the epidural with an antiseptic. On balance, the Court ruled that the woman should be permitted to proceed with her claim.

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