By Graham Bell, Partner in Clinical Negligence.
The case of Cooper -v- Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust  involved a negligent failure to provide necessary treatment to a patient who was at risk of suffering permanent kidney damage.
Peter Cooper won an undisclosed seven figure sum for permanent damage to his kidneys, which eventually led to a transplant.
From early childhood, Peter Cooper had been disabled by Langerhans cell hystiocytosis and was later diagnosed with diabetes insipidus. It is believed that he suffered moderate brain damage as a result of treatment for LCH, which at the time was very poorly understood. A specialist referred him to the urology department at Hammersmith Hospital with an enlarged bladder and specifically drew attention to the risk of permanent damage to his kidneys. Subsequent tests revealed a high pressure bladder. Despite the risk of serious damage to the claimant’s kidneys, he was not seen by a consultant but by a different junior doctor on each occasion that he attended the hospital and he was not given appropriate treatment which would have involved either a catheter or surgery. Nearly three years later he suffered acute renal failure.
He never fully recovered by rather suffered a protracted and catastrophic decline with numerous complications and surgical procedures, including use of a suprapubic catheter, MRSA, ileal conduit urinary diversion, bladder biopsy, surgical removal of bladder and prostate and many years of haemodialysis. His general decline was superimposed on his underlying health problems and he suffered a significant loss of mobility leading to heavy wheelchair dependence. Eventually, following a seven year wait, he underwent a kidney transplant which brought about a substantial improvement, although he never recovered to his pre-accident level of health.
The hospital trust admitted that it should have been recognised that the claimant was in danger of suffering permanent kidney damage. The trust went on to admit that it was negligent to fail to inform the claimant’s GP of the danger he was in and to fail to call the patient back following correspondence with a nurse continence manager. It nonetheless, declined to admit liability. In its defence, the hospital trust blamed the claimant’s family on the basis that they knew of the danger he was in (despite the absence of reference to such a warning in his medical records). Its expert later asserted, on the flimsiest evidence, that the defendant had actually offered appropriate treatment which had been refused.
Following the exchange of experts’ reports, a settlement meeting took place at which the defendant offered a sum that was considered to represent the full value of the claimant’s case. The settlement was subsequently approved by the High Court.
Peter Cooper’s mother said:
“It was a real struggle to win justice for Pete. We were deeply shocked and offended at being told that we were responsible for Pete’s injuries for ignoring medical advice. We had the best lawyers and medical experts on Pete’s side, which is why we were able to win the case for him. Although no sum of money could even truly compensate for the suffering he has endured, it has enabled the family to ensure Pete’s long term security and greatly enhanced the quality of his life. We are very grateful to everyone who fought on Pete’s behalf and also to the High Court Judge for his very kind words at the final court hearing”.
Graham Bell said:
“I have acted for few clients who have suffered quite as badly as Pete. His own strength of character and family support carried him through. I was surprised at the defendant’s line of argument which I always thought was very unlikely to succeed as a matter of law. However, the complexity of Pete’s underlying medical problems made calculating his loss unusually difficult”.