THE family of a Perth girl, who was left brain damaged while receiving burns treatment in hospital, could be awarded a multi-million dollar payout after successfully suing the state’s child health service.
Sunday Mabior was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital with scald injuries on December 9, 2005 and two days later was in the intensive care unit, where she suffered lung failure and two heart attacks, which caused irreversible brain damage.
The WA Child and Adolescent Health Service was fighting accusations of negligence in a District Court civil trial, but Judge Anthony Derrick sided with the girl’s family on Friday.
Lawyer Phil Gleeson read a statement from the family outside court as the now 13-year-old Sunday, who has cerebral palsy, sat in her wheelchair.
“The reason we have pursued this case is because our daughter Sunday is growing up and she always asks the reason for her disability,” he read.
“It is appropriate for her to know what happened as she grows up.”
Sunday, who is a Sudanese refugee, was a toddler when she fell into a bath filled with hot water at her family’s Marangaroo home, suffering burns to 18 per cent of her body.
On her third day at the hospital, staff told Sunday’s family she had died, then returned moments later to say she had been revived but had brain damage and it was unlikely she would survive.
The family says life has been very tough since 2005, with only one of Sunday’s parents able to work because she needs constant care.
“We do not see the whole of PMH as responsible for our daughter’s injures, only those who were there in ICU on the night,” the family said.
Mr Gleeson said it had been a six-year wait for the court to rule on liability and he was confident of reaching an agreement on damages.
“Sunday has lifelong injuries so the damages, without being specific, will be in the many millions of dollars,” he said.
Health Minister Roger Cook and the health service have been sought for comment.
During the trial, the family’s lawyer Theo Lampropoulos said Sunday suffered Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and hospital staff remained too focused on the possibility of it being caused by fluid overload even through sepsis was by far the most common cause.
When her condition deteriorated they failed to monitor for signs of infection despite sepsis being one of the biggest causes of death in burns patients.
He said it was unacceptable Sunday was not swiftly treated with intravenous antibiotics after her condition worsened, with medical notes indicating hospital staff did not appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
Defence counsel David Clyne argued she never had sepsis, saying her symptoms were equally indicative of Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome while a blood culture did not point to infection.
Even if she had sepsis, there was nothing to say antibiotics would have helped, Mr Clyne said.