A settlement, with a capitalised value of almost £15.6m for 12-year-old Holly Greenhow, has been approved at the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ).
The family feel it is important that the case be reported to raise awareness for Holly and children like her.
Holly was born at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, a district general hospital near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, on 18 November 2005. Her brain was starved of oxygen when she experienced what the family alleged to be an avoidable period of profound hypoxia during birth. She now suffers from severe choreoathetoid cerebral palsy.
Holly’s case was brought by Richard Follis, head of Shoosmiths Personal Advisory Division, as lead partner assisted by associate solicitor Jill Davies, who were with Holly’s mother, Fiona Greenhow, at the RCJ when the final settlement was approved on 9 July 2018.
Liability was strongly disputed by NHS Resolution until a compromise was agreed at a round table settlement meeting which avoided a costly trial and, crucially, the litigation risk that Holly might receive nothing.
The terms of the compromise (whereby the NHS agreed to pay Holly 75% of the full value of such compensation as she could later prove she was entitled to) were approved by the High Court at an earlier hearing in May 2013.
The case then involved five years of painstaking work to prove the cost of providing Holly with lifetime provision for care, therapies, treatment, equipment, education, loss of earnings and accommodation given her ongoing healthcare and support needs.
A trial due to take place in the summer of 2014 to finalise the amount of Holly’s claim was put back on legal advice. This was to make sure that Holly’s educational needs were able to be met at schools near to her family home and without Holly having to go away to board or the family move to another part of the country to secure suitable education.
The compensation will provide Holly and her family with the reassurance and certainty that, despite her severe cerebral palsy, this young girl’s needs will be met for her lifetime. The defendant, Hinchingbrooke Anglia Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, agreed (after taking into account the 75% liability settlement) to pay for Holly’s benefit a £6.4m lump sum along with annual payments which start at £105,000 per year until age 18, then provide for £95,000 until age 21 rising to £199,500 (all three index linked) per year from age 21 onwards.
Jill Davies marshalled the firm’s specialist education lawyers who fought for appropriate SEN provision for Holly in SEND Tribunals. The litigation also successfully claimed for the cost of conductive education. Jill also liaised with colleagues expert in Wealth Protection and Court of Protection to achieve this substantial settlement.
‘This was a lengthy and complex case that required not just litigation expertise but also considerable input from a number of specialists in other departments to ensure that Holly and her parents have the support and assistance they need to allow them to focus entirely on Holly’s well-being, helping her to flourish and reach her full potential.'
Regular interim payments secured by Shoosmiths during the course of the claim over 12 years meant the family did not have to wait until now to begin to put in place the support they needed. Holly has had the benefit of treatments, aids and specialist equipment as well as substantial alterations to the family home and specialised transport funded by the litigation. In addition her parents organised pioneering stem cell treatment in California which appears to have brought benefits.
‘I have always been open minded to alternative treatment opportunities that may be available. Our journey for Holly receiving this treatment in California started with ILS music therapy that quickly moved to Neurofeedback and then the opportunity to try an amniotic stem cell infusion. We were told that we could see differences for up to two years post the infusion and due to some of the positive changes that we have already seen we are keen to return later in the year.’
Despite her disabilities, Holly has modelled for clothing retailer Boden and for Tesco's F&F clothing range – something her mother encouraged Holly to do as an advocate for models with disabilities and giving her an opportunity to do something she clearly enjoyed as well as something different.
Speaking after the hearing, Fiona Greenhow described her daughter as a ‘very sociable little girl’, with a wonderful personality and great sense of humour and infectious laugh, but incredibly strong-willed with a determination not to give up until she is understood.
Holly presently communicates using eye-gaze equipment, but Fiona hopes that technological developments in the future, accessible thanks to the financial settlement, could mean she will not be ‘trapped in her own body’ and may be able to communicate more freely, which might encourage more people to want to connect with her.
Jill Davies said:
‘It has taken a lot of time and emotional energy on the part of her family to get to this point, however it’s very rewarding to know that our efforts across the firm mean that, with professional care and support funded by the settlement, Holly will be able to live independently, thanks to that appropriate support, when she grows up and lead as fulfilled a life as possible.’
Fiona Greenhow concluded:
‘It's quite a surreal feeling now that the case is finally over – if you had told me at the beginning it would have taken this long I don't think I would have believed you. We are all delighted with the award and very grateful for all the hard work and support Shoosmiths has given us over those many years, but no amount of money or apology will ever bring back what we should have had with Holly. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not regret what happened the day she was born.'
Holly Greenhow - cerebral palsy client. (Photo by Nancy Collins Photography)