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Court awards little Zac Ward a record $6.44 million payout for injuries sustained during birth

* Sophie Elsworth and Alison Sandy
* The Courier-Mail
* April 08, 2011 12:00AM

A LANDMARK $6.44 million payout is due to be awarded today to a six-year-old boy who allegedly suffered a serious brain injury during birth and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, court documents have revealed.

The compensation follows a four-year legal battle and will be the largest sum paid out for such a case in Queensland, surpassing the $5.502 million awarded to Toowoomba boy Christopher Hills in 2006 after he also developed the disability due to complications during his birth.

Simone and Steven Ward and their son Zac, aged 6, lodged the claim in Brisbane’s Supreme Court in 2007 for personal injuries and consequential loss as a result of alleged negligence by Dr Robert Watson and HCoA Operations (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Zac requires assistance to feed himself, is unable to walk or stand unaided and suffers other health complications, court documents state.

The Ward family, from Hendra on Brisbane’s northside, proceeded with legal action after what are claimed to have been complications during his birth and claim their son was born in “poor condition and was “pale and flaccid at birth”.

Zac was born on June 15, 2004, at North West Private Hospital in Everton Park after Mrs Ward had an emergency, lower-section, caesarean section, according to court documents.

The documents state Mrs Ward had visited the hospital earlier that day after having high blood pressure but was discharged that afternoon.

It was claimed she was induced and told to return to the hospital if her condition worsened, which she did at 8 o’clock that night.

The documents state 15 minutes after she arrived at the hospital Dr Watson examined Mrs Ward and determined he would perform an emergency, lower caesarean section. Zac was born 28 minutes later and had suffered a serious brain injury due to lack of oxygen prior to his delivery.

He allegedly then developed seizures about 12 hours after birth and was subsequently diagnosed with severe, spastic, quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

The documents state, he had a “foetal compromise been detected, appropriate obstetric management could have been undertaken such that the third plaintiff would have been delivered without sustaining the effects of hypoxic injury to his brain”. The Wards claim Zac’s brain injuries were caused by negligence by the doctor and the hospital.

The family, represented by Shine Lawyers, reached an agreement with the defendants and Zac’s parents are also expected to receive an undisclosed sum. The compensation is expected to be sanctioned in Brisbane’s Supreme Court today.

Since Zac’s birth Mrs Ward experiences frequent crying spells, is socially withdrawn and suffers from intrusive negative thoughts, according to the documents. In addition, Mr Ward is stated to suffer from reactive anxiety and depression.

Christopher Hills received a $5.3 million payout from the Queensland Government after he developed cerebral palsy because of birth complications during his caesarean at Toowoomba Base Hospital.

His damages payout has been put into a trust fund until he 18.

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