Mental harm claim: Perinatal death

McManus v Murrumbidgee Local Area Health Network [2016] NSWSC 1347 was a decision published yesterday in which the plaintiff alleged that  the defendant failed properly to monitor her labour or to manage her antenatal period and delivery with the result that her unborn child died soon after birth and in circumstances that could and should have been avoided by an earlier caesarean intervention. Liability was admitted.

The decision focused on the claimants prognosis, but also may be of interest given the quantum of damages awarded, with a 60% award for non-economic loss and damages totaling more than $1.7 million.

An aspect of the prognosis evidence sought to be put by the claimant (asserted  alterations to her neural pathways secondary to her post-traumatic stress that are irreversible and that will entirely delimit the prospect of any further recovery) was not admitted into evidence: [43].

The defendant argued that resolution of the litigation would have a beneficial effect: [51]. On that issue at [53] the trial judge said:

…..these proceedings are but one factor in the cause of Ms McManus’ current distressing medical condition. It is not the only factor and is not in my opinion even the most significant factor. So much is apparent from an examination of the underlying causes of Ms McManus’ continuing post-traumatic stress disorder, her anxiety and her depression. The resolution of these proceedings will undoubtedly be beneficial to Ms McManus but that will not make a significant difference to her suffering in my opinion. In particular, it will neither shorten the duration of her condition nor significantly alter its intensity. The part to be played in ameliorating Ms McManus’ otherwise unfortunate prognosis by conclusion of her case will be minimal.




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