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Family wins justice over negligent care leading to daughter’s brain injury

By David Thomas

Published In: Clinical Negligence

The mother of a young woman born with a brain injury, caused after being starved of oxygen for too long, has spoken of the family’s 25-year struggle for justice. A High Court judge found failings in her care led to a negligent delay in delivery.

Elisha Woods, described by her family as resilient, incredibly brave, truly inspirational, and beautiful both inside and out, was born at Bassetlaw District General Hospital on October 14, 1998.

In the early hours of October 14, doctors decided to rupture Mrs Woods’ waters, revealing thick meconium-stained liquor, a clear sign of distress. She was taken to theatre for an emergency section, but sadly Elisha was born in poor condition with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and a dangerously low heartbeat. She was pale, motionless and did not cry.

She required emergency oxygen and was transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit where a blood gas test confirmed low oxygen levels, indicating a hypoxic-ischemic injury to her brain.

Her condition means that she has ongoing needs and will require support to live independently.

Following her ordeal, Elisha’s mum, Julie, 51, instructed medical negligence experts at Switalskis to investigate the chain of events leading up to her labour,. Particularly in relation to the care that she received at Bassetlaw District General Hospital in the two weeks prior to giving birth.

The legal team went on to bring legal action on her behalf against Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

At a High Court hearing earlier this year her legal team presented evidence that Mrs Woods had visited the Bassetlaw District General Hospital due to leaking amniotic fluid, on September 28, 1998. She underwent CTG monitoring which revealed that her baby had tachycardia, an abnormally high heart rate, which persisted for over 2 hours.

Due to the midwife’s concerns, repeat CTG monitoring was carried out later the same evening, which the senior doctor wrongly interpreted as being normal before discharging Julie home. 

At the Court Hearing, Mrs Justice Lambert heard further evidence that the doctor should have repeated the CTG and conducted further tests and investigations the following day. These tests would have likely shown continuing tachycardia, growth restriction, and reduced amniotic fluid volume—signs of deficiency leading to chronic partial hypoxia to Elisha’s brain.

A judgment handed down this week found in favour of Elisha and her family, with the judge concluding that with reasonable care, labour should have been induced on September 29, 1998. Adding that if that had happened, Elisha would have avoided chronic hypoxia to her brain.

David Thomas , a birth injury specialist at Switalskis Solicitors, who led Elisha’s legal team, commented: “It has been a long and challenging journey for the family to finally get justice for Elisha. The NHS Trust and NHS Resolution have fought hard to defend this case, and they must now pay all trial costs, which could have been avoided through negotiations.

“Whilst nothing will ever make up for the injuries that Elisha has sustained because of the failings in her care, this judgment paves the way for us to now bring a claim for compensation on her behalf. This will help to fund her ongoing care needs and provide her with some financial security for the rest of her life.

“We aim to collaborate with the defence legal team to help Elisha and her family finally move on with their lives as quickly as possible.”

Julie Woods expressed her relief at the ruling: “I am so relieved that Mrs Justice Lambert ruled in Elisha’s favour. This has been a stressful experience for the whole family, and I hope all remaining issues can be resolved swiftly.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank David Thomas and his legal team at Switalskis, and my barrister, Richard Baker KC of 7 Bedford Row , for their unwavering support. Every mother hopes that their birthing experience will be safe and that their baby will be healthy, and so it is truly heartbreaking when something does go wrong.

“Having the right legal team behind you to help navigate the challenges that lie ahead is absolutely essential, and they have supported Elisha and my family every step of the way under very difficult circumstances.”

Why Switalskis?

Switalskis are passionate about supporting victims of medical negligence. We do this by ensuring that you have access to first class lawyers, who can 
demonstrate the necessary skills and expertise which is essential when acting for clients in birth injury claims  .

If you'd like to speak to one of our specialist solicitors, call us on 0800 138 0458   or email

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David has worked in the legal sector for over 30 years.  He is a Director in our Medical Negligence team and heads up our London office.

Director and Chartered Legal Executive

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