Family Can Finally Give Laura Care She Needs

The family of a girl who was left blind and suffering from severe brain damage when doctors in Bristol took more than 20 minutes to resuscitate her has won £4.1 million in compensation.

Laura Gaines, now 29, was born with a heart defect which required surgery when she was 10 months old. Two days after the operation at Bristol Royal Infirmary, she suffered heart failure but it took medics 22 minutes to bring her back from the brink of death, during which time she suffered brain damage which left her needing 24-hour care.

Laura is mentally and physically disabled and utterly dependent on the care of her devoted mother

Yesterday, a 10-year legal battle came to a close at the Royal Courts of Justice in London when a payout was finally agreed.

The hospital yesterday publicly apologised to the Gaines family for the irreversible injuries she suffered in the BRI.

Solicitor Tim Dyde, of Exeter-based law firm Tozer, said: “Laura’s case was an unusual and highly complex one.

“The hospital made an admission of negligence in 2001 but the amount of damages could not be agreed at that time and extensive work had to be undertaken as a consequence.

“A trial date at the Royal Courts of Justice had been set for this month but following negotiations, an agreement was reached on a substantial settlement.”

The family left their home in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, in 1981 to begin a new life in California when Laura was two years old. Laura’s mother, Ann, did not consider bringing legal action until 1998, 19 years after the incident, when she discovered there was to be a public inquiry into the hospital’s cardiac services.

It is thought the huge compensation payout could have been even greater if the family were still living in Britain, due to the cost of living being less in the United States.

It is also believed several other families are in the process of pursing legal action against the hospital.

Laura’s brain was starved of oxygen and she was left blind, epileptic and unable to move or speak. Mrs Gaines has devoted her life to caring for her daughter but the costs of such care are extensive.

Mr Dyde said: “The case involved working with both American experts as well as British ones. It had been vital to ensure that the final award of compensation took account of all US tax implications for Laura as well as ensuring that all other aspects of US law were dealt with, so that Laura received all the damages to which she was entitled.

“The cost of living and care is cheaper in America, we could have been looking at a much larger sum if this was based on British costs. It’s been a long process for the family and they are relieved it is over.

“Mrs Gaines has always provided her daughter with the highest quality of care and this settlement will go towards ensuring the rest of Laura’s life is as comfortable as possible.”

Yesterday, a spokesman for Bristol Royal Infirmary publicly apologised to the Gaines family.

He said: “We wish to apologise again for the injuries caused to Laura.

“We would like to pay tribute to the selfless care provided to Laura by her mother and hope that this settlement will enable them to move forward.”

The former Avon Health Authority was served with the writ in 2004. It has now been replaced by a larger organisation called the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Strategic Health Authority, which deals with all matters relating to the old authority.

The BRI is also locked in a high court compensation battle over treatment to Marianna Telles, 22, when she was a baby more than 20 years ago.

Lawyers for Marianna Telles say she was negligently treated at the hospital by two doctors – James Wisheart and Janardhan Dhasmana – both of whom were later criticised and disciplined after an inquiry into the Bristol heart baby scandal.