Petting farm E. Coli victims compensated

Posted: 1st May 2014

FarmsTen children who were exposed to a potentially fatal strain of the E. Coli bacteria during family visits to a Surrey petting zoo have won compensation for the physical and emotional scars that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

The youngsters, including two-year-old twins, were amongst more than 90 children struck down by the E. Coli 0157 bug after visiting Godstone Farm and stroking the animals in August and September 2009. Eight of them needed extended dialysis after the bug destroyed their red blood cells and the worst-affected, a two-year-old boy, was in hospital for 40 days undergoing treatment, including blood and platelet transfusions.

Some of the children had been left with phobic fears of doctors, hospitals and needles and all of them would have to live with the risk of developing chronic kidney disease in later life, long-term dialysis or even the necessity of kidney transplants.

Through their parents, they sued the farm's owner, who admitted liability and whose insurers agreed to settlements of the cases whereby each of the children would receive thousands of pounds in damages to compensate them for their pain and suffering.

Under the terms of the compromise, the children will also have the right to return to court for further payouts if their medical conditions deteriorate at any time in the future. Three of the children have already developed chronic kidney disease and others will be at significant risk of doing so for many years to come.

The children's lawyers revealed outside court that they had so far settled 35 cases arising from the outbreak for a total of over £1 million. The settlements in respect of the ten most serious cases were approved as ‘fair and sensible’ by the Court.

The judge said, "These children have all had painful and frightening experiences. I cannot think of anything more ghastly than for such young children to go through these procedures. However, the outcomes have been remarkable, no doubt due to the courage of the children and their parents."

The children's solicitor said after the hearing, "The horror of what these children and their families have been through is difficult for anyone to describe. How do you explain to a scared, young child why they have to undergo painful treatments? Every parent only ever wants to do the best for the child.

"I can see that a day out to a farm is for many seen as a chance to get back to nature from the rigours of the city and for children to meet and touch animals. But for a day to end like this is utterly devastating…How tragic that these young children were allowed to skip into this farm completely oblivious to the danger that awaited."