Norfolk girl gets £5.75m damages payout

IAN CLARKE A "delightful and happy" 11-year-old Norfolk girl who suffered "catastrophic" injuries in a horrific motorway smash today won almost £6 million compensation.

IAN CLARKE

A "delightful and happy" 11-year-old Norfolk girl who suffered "catastrophic" injuries in a horrific motorway smash today won almost £6 million compensation.

Jade Robinson was just over two years old and strapped into a child seat in the family car when it was hit from behind by a van on the M1 motorwary, at Walshford, near York, on November 2 1997.

Her counsel, Mr Richard Davies QC, described her brain injuries as "catastrophic", but said she remained a "delightful and happy" child, largely due to the " extraordinary courage and fortitude" of her parents, John and Sharon, who both work for the Prison Service at Wayland Prison, near Watton.

The family used to live at Griston, near Watton, and got huge support from the local community - and staff and inmates at the prison - following the crash.

They have now moved to Attleborough.

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Mr and Mrs Robinson, and their son, Sean were also injured when the family car span out of control and struck the central reservation.

But Jade was by far the most gravely wounded, Mr Davies told London's High Court.

Describing her disabilities as "multi-faceted", the QC said they "added up to a very dire picture".

As well as "profound deficits in her cognitive functioning" - she has the learning age of a three-year old - Mr Davies said that, although Jade can stagger a few yards without falling, she has "no functional walking ability".

Jade is completely deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other.

She also has problems with her vision and, although her loved ones can understand her well, the QC said that "a stranger would not find it that easy" to do so.

She has also suffered from epilepsy and is stricken by occasional "absences".

Nevertheless, Mr Davies said of Jade: "She is a delightful, happy child who does enjoy a real quality of life. She loves water and greatly enjoys participating in the Riding for the Disabled scheme."

She had made "very considerable progress" at the special school she attends and the professional carers who look after her had "become virtually members of the family".

Describing Jade as "by and large a happy girl", the QC said that could not take away from the fact that she "will always require 24-hour support throughout the remainder of her life".

Mr Davies said nine years of litigation before today had been "an intrusive part" of Mr and Mrs Robinson's private lives. They had found the constant expert analysis of Jade and her lifestyle extremely difficult, but had borne it "with extraordinary fortitude".

The couple, he added, could now rest assured that, when they can no longer care for Jade themselves, she will have the benefit of a professional care regime.

Through her mother, Jade had sued the motor insurers of the van driver involved in the crash, who Mr Davies said had admitted liability at an early stage and today agreed to settle her claim for £5,750,000.

After the collision, Jade's injuries were so serious her parents feared she would not survive. But she improved after emergency treatment at Harrogate Hospital and, three weeks later, was able to be transferred to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, where she stayed until February 1998.

With their help, Jade was able to attend the Children's Trust, in Tadworth Court, Surrey, where she spent six months receiving one-to-one care and intensive rehabilitation.

Jade's solicitor, Tom Cook, said after today's settlement: "Jade is totally dependent on others for all aspects of her daily life.

"She has postural, mobility, visual, intellectual, emotional and behavioural difficulties and, though she is able to attend a special school, she has to be constantly accompanied by one of her carers."

Mr Cook said that, with the help of an interim damages payment, the family had been able to move to a larger home where Jade can be looked after by a professional team of carers on the ground floor.

"She needs space for therapy and also accommodation for her carers to sleep over when necessary. She also needs a case manager to organise and recruit the team of carers and therapists."

Mr Cook added: "It's only too easy to imagine the devastating effect the accident has had on Jade and her family.

"They have had to endure the stresses involved in almost ten years of protracted litigation and the constant involvement of numerous experts representing both Jade and the defendant's insurers, against whom this case was brought.

"They also have to share their lives with Jade's team of carers and therapists.

"In addition, of course, their once bright and lively little daughter has had her life catastrophically interrupted and her parents are bound to have continuing concerns about what will happen to her in the future, since it is anticipated that she will have almost a normal life expectancy."

The solicitor concluded: "This has been an enormous tragedy for the family and for everyone who knows them, but our aim now must be to ensure that Jade can look forward to as fulfilling a life as is possible with her injuries".

After the case, in a statement, the family said: “We're very pleased that Jade's case has been settled and that at last there is a sum of money which will go a long way to providing for Jade's needs for the rest of her life.

The last nine years have been extremely stressful, but we understand that it wasn't possible for Jade to have justice without waiting until the experts were able to provide a better idea of what the future holds for her. We're now simply pleased that we can get on with the rest of our lives without the court case and all its uncertainty.

“We would like to take this opportunity of thanking all those who have stood by us through this long ordeal - Tom Cook and Julie Crossley and the teams at Kester Cunningham John, Anglia Case Management, Jade's care team and all our family and friends. Their help and support since Jade's accident have been invaluable.”