Woman traumatised by stillbirth of daughter awarded £270,000 in damages

A woman who has suffered from a “prolonged, pathological grief disorder” since her daughter was stillborn nearly six years ago has been awarded more than a quarter of a million pounds in damages by the High Court.

Justyna Zeromska-Smith, 38, sued United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust for more than £2 million in damages following the stillbirth of her daughter Megan.

She argued that she had suffered psychiatric injuries since the time of the stillbirth in May 2013, and that she now cannot be separated from her two sons who were born subsequently.

The Trust admitted it was liable for the stillbirth and conceded that Mrs Zeromska-Smith was entitled to damages, but said she should only receive around £150,000.

Giving judgment in London on Tuesday, Mr Justice Martin Spencer awarded Mrs Zeromska-Smith a total of £272,000.

The judge found that Mrs Zeromska-Smith had been “making good progress in recovering from the grief she was suffering from the death of her baby”, but that she began to suffer from a psychiatric injury or illness “soon after” she discovered in 2015 that her new baby was a boy.

This, the judge said, “caused her recovery path to turn downwards and manifest itself as a florid, severe depressive illness from December 2015”.

He found that, prior to that point, Mrs Zeromska-Smith suffered “a period of normal, albeit deep, grief” as opposed to “a period of overt psychiatric illness”.

Mr Justice Spencer said Mrs Zeromska-Smith suffered from “a prolonged, pathological grief disorder complicated by a separation anxiety since [her first son] was born and agoraphobia, and a severe depressive disorder from December 2015 until about December 2016”.

He noted that Mrs Zeromska-Smith’s anxiety at being separated from her children was such that she could only give evidence at the hearing if her children were in a conference room near the court and she “had a monitor in the witness box which she used to observe her children whilst giving evidence”.

The judge found Mrs Zeromska-Smith had recovered from her severe depression, but that she had not yet recovered from the pathological grief, the separation anxiety or her agoraphobia.

However, he found that her prognosis was “good with appropriate treatment” and that she would recover “within about two years”.

He added: “The claimant will never be the same person she was before the stillbirth, but that will be normal for someone who has lost a child.”

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