Court gives pounds 2.75m to boy `genius'

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The Independent Online
A 12-YEAR-OLD boy who, like Professor Stephen Hawking, has a brilliant mind trapped in a shattered body, was awarded pounds 2.75m yesterday in the High Court.

Adam Trayfoot, who is confined to a wheelchair, was paid the compensation because of mistakes made by Westminster Hospital in London during his birth in 1986. He was starved of oxygen during delivery and has been left unable to speak or control his limbs.

However, his mind was unaffected and he shares a genius for numbers with Professor Hawking, the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, and bestselling author of A Brief History Of Time. Given a date in the future, he is able within seconds to name the day of the week on which it will fall.

Mr Justice Rougier drew parallels between the two because of the "massive speech disabilities" they both share. He asked whether Adam, who will need constant care for the rest of his life, could be fitted with an electronic voice synthesiser like Professor Hawking, who has motor neurone disease.

The case is the latest in a series of multi-million pound settlements against the NHS. It followed a House of Lords ruling last year which has altered the basis for calculating damages payments, increasing the size of awards.

Nigel Wilkinson QC, representing Adam, said his parents Michael and Sylvia Trayfoot, of Frensham, near Farnham, Surrey, understand Adam when he talks.

He was able to "make his views known" by hand movements, facial expressions and writing on a computer screen.

Adam, who sat holding his father's hand during the short hearing, had "a very keen and interested mind" and was doing well at the Lord Mayor Treloar College in Alton, Hampshire. No effort would be spared to improve his ability to talk to others, Mr Wilkinson said.

Neil Block, representing the health authority - which admitted mistakes had been made at the birth - said he had been shown a video of a "day in the life" of Adam.

"May I take the opportunity to say that we, like your lordship, have been humbled by watching the video-tape. We would wish Adam and his family all the best of luck in the future and we express the hope that this settlement will go some way to making up for the awful harm that was done to him," Mr Block said.

The judge, who had also watched the video, said that the settlement had his blessing. Most of the money had already been paid by Riverside Health Authority before yesterday's hearing.

The court was told that Mr Trayfoot, 45, a company director, and his 40-year-old wife had bought their home to extend it to meet Adam's needs.

Mr Trayfoot said later: "We are both very happy that this litigation is now over and we do not need to worry about any more court appearances.

"This money will go towards helping Adam for the rest of his life, although no amount of money could ever really compensate for the problems that he has."

Adam then demonstrated his mathematical gifts by naming the day of the week of a random date.