Clinical Negligence

Court approved settlement of claim for damages following succession of management failures of a spinal injury

Jonathan Herbert, specialist clinical negligence lawyer acting for the claimant successfully obtained approval of a settlement to compensate her for her husband’s pain and suffering and financial losses following avoidable deterioration caused by unreasonable delays in treatment.

The claimant was aged 59 when he first saw his GP with a history of progressive weakness of his left leg.  His GP made an urgent referral to a neurologist at Maidstone Hospital.  The hospital thought there was an anterior horn disorder but failed to consider that the spine itself was the cause of his symptoms.  Maidstone Hospital should have sent a scan request sooner and King’s College Hospital should have arranged for the patient to be scanned sooner.  There was also a unexplained reason for delayed receipt of the request of over five weeks.  This all resulted in delay of over three months in carrying out correct scanning.  Both hospitals were responsible for the delay.  Thereafter both hospitals also failed to arrange a neurosurgical assessment.

The claimant did his utmost to continue at work but he was able to contribute less and less to domestic chores and also socialised less.  Eventually, he needed assistance with basic activities of daily living.

Over five months after he should have undergone surgery at the latest (which should have been about four months from the original referral), the patient underwent decompression and stabilisation of his cervical spine in order to prevent further deterioration.  Despite that, symptoms worsened and over two years later he underwent spinal decompression at C5/6.

During the course of the investigation, the claimant suffered a stroke and lost capacity to conduct the case.  His wife agreed to act as her husband’s litigation friend.  The scope of the investigation changed because it became necessary to explore additionally whether the stroke was a further consequence of the delay in his spinal management.  It emerged that he had vascular dementia and Binswanger’s disease which caused urinary incontinence and progressive gait disturbance which he would have developed irrespective of the delay in the management of his spinal condition.

The delay in treatment denied the claimant two years of better life before dementia and Binswanger’s disease took their toll.  He ould have been left with some disability during that time, but he would have had a much better quality of life.

Before proceedings were issued, the defendant indicated that the claim would be defended in part, but after the service of proceedings where the patient’s vascular dementia and Binswanger’s disease were acknowledged, we negotiated a settlement that required court approval.

Jonathan Herbert specialises in clinical negligence compensation claims.  If you would like to ask Jonathan a question about a potential case, or if you have a general query about any personal injury, contact him at Thomson Snell & Passmore solicitors on 01892 701226 in confidence.

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