Tag Archives: Legal Aid

Our 25th anniversary!

On 1 October 1992, Hilton Armstrong and Peter Foulkes set up Armstrong Foulkes, with their intention being to set up a firm of solicitors specialising in clinical negligence and personal injury.  At the time, there were no other firms in the area that specialised in clinical negligence and we were the first firm in Teesside to have a legal aid contract for clinical negligence and the only one to have such a contract for many years.

Peter retired on 1 October 2013 when Joanne Davies and Ashleigh Holt became partners and Armstrong Foulkes became Armstrong Foulkes LLP, a limited liability partnership.

Throughout the past 25 years, the firm has gone from strength to strength and is nationally recognised as being a leading clinical negligence firm.  We are described in Chambers and Partners, which ranks lawyers worldwide, as a “specialist boutique with a superb reputation for handling complex clinical negligence claims. Advises and represents clients on a wide range of matters, including child brain injury and surgical negligence cases, and also handles claims concerning delayed diagnoses.”  The top firms are ranked from Band 1 to 6 (with 1 being the highest ranking achievable) and we are pleased that we continue to hold a Band 1 ranking and have done for many years now.

The firm now comprises 5 fee earners – Hilton, Joanne and Ashleigh (the partners) and Kathryn and Dan (solicitors).  We also have 4 support staff – Liz (who has been with the firm since the outset), Caroline, Jan and Honor.

Hilton says specialising in clinical negligence suits his personality as it requires great attention to detail.  This is a trait of his that is recognised in Chambers and Partners as he is noted to be “technically very competent, very thorough and will go the extra distance to investigate a case to see if there is something in it.”  As well as ranking firms of solicitors, Chambers and Partners also ranks the top solicitors in the country and Hilton continues to hold a Band 1 ranking.  Ashleigh and Joanne are also recommended.

The partners have yet to decide how we are going to celebrate the 25 year milestone but we have been assured it will be something to look forward to!  In the meantime, in true Armstrong Foulkes style, we have celebrated with cake!

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If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors for advice about a potential clinical negligence claim, please telephone us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson, October 2017

Surgery abandoned due to a lack of beds

Due to abdominal pain Mr M was scheduled to have his gall bladder removed at the James Cook University Hospital in early 2015. It was intended that this procedure would be “keyhole” surgery with the option to convert to open surgery should this become necessary. If the “keyhole” surgery was successful then Mr M would be treated as a day case and allowed home the same day, if an open procedure (traditional “non-keyhole” surgery) was required then he would need to be kept in hospital overnight and so would need an inpatient bed.

Mr M attended James Cook University hospital as arranged and was taken down for surgery shortly after. Before he was put under general anaesthetic there was some concern as there were no inpatient beds available, but Mr M was nevertheless put to sleep and his surgery was started. It quickly became apparent that Mr M would in fact require the open version of the surgery and so needed an inpatient bed. As no beds were available Mr M’s surgery had to be abandoned.

When Mr M came round after his surgery he was told what happened and sent home. Mr M suffered cuts and bruising where his surgery had been started and was in pain for almost 2 weeks, during which time he was unable to work.

A few weeks after the abandoned surgery Mr M returned to the James Cook University Hospital and his gall bladder was removed successfully by open surgery.

Although Mr M was always going to need the open version of the surgery we were able to argue that his initial surgery should not have been started when no inpatient beds were available. Although it was intended that the procedure would be tried as “keyhole” surgery the need to convert to open surgery was always a possibility. Due to the hospital’s failure to make sure a bed would be available if he needed it prior to the surgery Mr M received an unnecessary general anaesthetic and suffered two painful cuts.

After coming to see us we were quickly able to put the case to the hospital, who admitted they were at fault straight away. After a short negotiation Mr M agreed to settle the claim for £3,500, less than a year after we took the case on. Thanks to an early admission of liability (legal blame) by the hospital we were able to settle this claim quickly and ensured that Mr M received the compensation he was due as early as possible.

While not all cases will proceed as quickly as this Armstrong Foulkes’ years of specialist experience working exclusively in medical negligence ensures that we are always in a position to give you the best possible advice in relation to your claim.

Dan Richardson, October 2017

Fixing the amount of Costs in Clinical Negligence Claims

Our solicitors and indeed the profession have awaited with some dread Lord Justice Jackson’s review of costs in civil matters which includes clinical negligence claims. It was suggested that there should be a fixed amount of costs allowed for claims up to a certain value, whether it is a contract dispute, a neighbour dispute or a complex clinical negligence claim. This was worrying because this took no account of the very individual nature of clinical negligence claims, where each claim, like each person is very different. Two people could, for example, have suffered the same mistake or be misdiagnosed with the same condition but the reasons for this, the investigation and the effect on them can be completely different needing an individual approach to each claim. It was always our view that a “one size fits all” system would only lead to people being denied the thorough investigation they deserve.

The costs paid by the defendant that the media and the NHS repeatedly complain are too high and who portray solicitors as “bleeding the NHS dry” are not a “windfall” for solicitors as has been claimed. They include the costs of multiple medical experts whose involvement can in large value cases cost tens of thousands of pounds and the fees for specialist barristers to advise on the case and represent the Claimant at Court. Cases proceeding to Trial involve solicitors’ costs for work over generally 3-6 years, some even longer. Limiting costs available to pursue a claim can, in our opinion, only result eventually in being unable to properly investigate a claim. Being denied the opportunity to fully investigate and subsequently being denied justice could result in the loss of the much needed compensation that allows those injured to live with the effects of the negligence and improve their life.

Lord Justice Jackson’s review, published in July, has recommended many changes and has thankfully rejected a “one size fits all” system. However the most significant proposal for the work we do is to suggest limiting the level of costs for Clinical Negligence work in cases with a value of up to £25,000. At each stage in the case there will be a fixed amount of costs available. This is not ideal and will include cases which are very complex and emotional to investigate but lower in value such as errors causing the deaths of children. It remains to be seen how or when this process will be finalised and there is a lot more work to be done before then but it is clear there will be implementation in the future of a fixed amount of costs to some clinical negligence cases.

Here at Armstrong Foulkes our solicitors are always available to discuss a potential case and advise you of your options irrespective of the value or level of injury. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no-obligation chat on 01642 231110.

Joanne Davies – September 2017

Dan Richardson in the Red Bull Soapbox Race 2017

For the second time in two years a team of my friends and I were lucky enough to take part in the Red Bull Soapbox race held at Alexandra Palace in London.

Out of the over 4,000 teams that applied 70 were chosen to take part in the day. On the race weekend we lined up next to some fantastic soapboxes, including a Harry Potter inspired motorcycle and sidecar, a giant Donald Trump in a bathtub and my personal favourite, a pair of raptors from Jurassic Park! The quality of design and construction of some of these soapboxes was outstanding.

Our soapbox was built from scratch and inspired by the Mad Max films. While we were all very happy with how the soapbox tuned out, in hindsight our heavy and thick costumes may have been a little warm for a hot summer day spent out in the sun!

Although we took part in the race back in 2015 we are sure that the track must have somehow gotten steeper, and the jumps bigger, in the last 2 years. Particularly daunting this year was a water jump, the first jump on the course and for many teams the only one they got to.

Despite the obstacles both my co-driver and I got to the end of the track in one piece, although unfortunately the same can’t be said for our soapbox, which chose to disintegrate spectacularly on the way down, I am sure adding to the thrill for the spectators!

Now it’s back to the drawing board for 2019’s idea……..

Dan Richardson, August 2017

[“All Dan’s colleagues here at Armstrong Foulkes were very proud, thrilled and a little scared as we watched video of him fly down the course, dodging obstacles in a disintegrating soapbox! However, like the trooper he is, despite being a little bruised and banged up he was straight back in the office and is already planning for next race! Well done Dan” – Editor]

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Easter Themed Fundraising for the Middlesbrough MS Therapy Centre

Each year at Armstrong Foulkes we choose a local charity to support from nominations made by our clients.  For the past year, we have been supporting the Middlesbrough Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre.  For further information about the services they provide, please see their website at www.middlesbroughmstherapy.org

As we have now been supporting this charity for almost a year, the time has come for us to choose a new local charity to support but we wanted to give one final fundraising push in order to raise as much money for the users of the Middlesbrough MS Therapy Centre.  Our Easter related fundraising activities included a “Name The Bunny” competition to win a Hotel Chocolat Easter gift bag, a tombola and a cake and sweet stall.  People were very enthusiastic with their involvement and very generous with their donations (although one did want to check before buying a chocolate cornflake cake that we had used Kellogg’s cornflakes!).  In total from this event alone  we raised over £230.

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The Middlesbrough MS Therapy Centre will shortly let us know how much we have raised in total over the past year so watch this space.  For the next 12 months, we will be supporting Teesside & District Society for the Blind.  This charity was nominated by one of our clients who lost her sight in 2011 as a result of medical negligence.  She attends the centre 3 times a week and it has been a huge support to her over the recent years.  If you would like more information on this charity, please visit their website at www.teessideblind.co.uk

Kathryn Watson – April 2016

 

Legal Aid to be abolished….

A Bill is going through Parliament that will withdraw the availability of Legal Aid for victims of medical accidents.  It will also reduce the amount of compensation successful claimants receive.  The Government believes that these measures will save the tax payer money and curb unmeritorious claims.

In future legal aid will not be available.  Practically nowadays only children who have suffered a severe injury, such as oxygen starvation at birth, get legal aid.  These are complex  expensive cases which are usually strenuously defended.  If legal aid is removed, most of these cases will not be pursued – they are far too expensive for the solicitor to fund the investigation on a no win no fee basis.   

In future all successful claimants will have about 25% of their compensation deducted to pay legal costs.  Currently this burden is on the party that caused the damage i.e. the defendant.  It is proposed to transfer this burden to the victim.  General damages will increase by 10% to compensate this but however you add up the figures the injured party will still be worse off.

These reforms are not good news for people injured as a result of medical malpractice. 

 Hilton Armstrong:  September 2011