Bouncy chair to blame for baby’s injuries?

Posted: 25th January 2013

RCJA father who claims that serious injuries suffered by his baby son were caused by a fall from his bouncy chair has been denied permission by the Court of Appeal to present a leading biomechanical engineering expert’s evidence in support of his case.

The father fell under suspicion after his 11-day-old son was taken to hospital with six broken ribs, two skull fractures and internal haemorrhaging. He wanted to call the engineering expert to bolster his case that the most likely explanation for those injuries is that his son was tipped out of his bouncy chair by his 13-month-old brother.

However, the court ruled that the expert’s input - which would cost up to £22,000 from the public purse - would add little to the debate over how the little boy came by his injuries. The father had not witnessed his son being tipped from the chair and the expert’s evidence was unlikely to be of assistance in ascertaining what actually happened.

Despite the father's plea that he would be denied a fair hearing if refused permission to call the expert, the court found that the value of any evidence he could give was ‘sufficiently slight as to fall well short of the 'reasonably required' test’.

The court reached its case management decision prior to a fact-finding hearing, in the context of care proceedings, at which five eminent medical experts will testify. The family judge who presides over that hearing will hear evidence on the possible causes of the boy's injuries before deciding if they were non-accidental and, if so, where responsibility for them lies.