Court allows patient to seek further compensation should she develop progressive lung condition

LH suffers from asthma.  In 2006, when she was 13 during a PE lesson at school, she used her inhaler which had been in her pocket along with 2 earrings.  She felt a sharp scratch in her throat and began to cough badly.  She then discovered one of her earrings was missing and assumed she had inhaled it when she had used her inhaler.  She immediately went to A&E when she explained what she thought had happened.  The doctor treating her thought she had instead swallowed the earring.  No x-ray was performed, she was reassured and sent home.

Over the next few years her asthma worsened and in 2014, she underwent a chest x-ray as a result of her increasing problems which included shortness of breath and a persistent cough.  This x-ray showed the earring in her lung which had collapsed as a result.  Fortunately, the earring was successfully removed and LH’s symptoms improved.

The hospital very quickly admitted that a chest x-ray should have been performed when she attended A&E in 2006 and this would have revealed the presence of the earring in her lung.  They admitted it would have been removed and she would have avoided the deterioration in her asthma from 2006 to 2014, along with the collapse of her lung.

However, they denied the long term effects this incident has had on LH.  It was the evidence of our expert respiratory physician that as a result of this incident, LH now has a 25% risk of developing bronchiectasis, a progressive life altering lung condition which may affect her ability to work and care for herself.

LH had 2 options to compensate her for this risk.  Firstly, she could settle on a full and final basis for 25% of what she would receive if she did develop the condition (to reflect the fact there is a 75% chance she will be fine).  Secondly, she could settle the case on the basis that she will not develop the condition but reserve the right to return to court for further compensation should she go on to develop bronchiectasis.  This is known as provisional damages.  It was our advice that this latter option provided far greater security and ensured she would receive full compensation if the worst happened.

LH followed our advice and sought provisional damages.  This was resisted by the hospital for a long time but they eventually conceded and the claim settled shortly before trial for £20,000 and the right to seek further damages should she be diagnosed with bronchiectasis at any point in the next 25 years.

This case highlights that when a mistake has been made, the long term consequences are often unknown until a thorough investigation has been completed.  Here, LH was unaware there was any risk to her future health as a result of what had happened until we obtained evidence from an expert in respiratory medicine.

If you or a family member are concerned by medical treatment you have received and the potential effect it has had on you, please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our solicitors will be happy to advise you.

Kathryn Watson – January 2019