Tag Archives: doctor negligence

Small change in the discount rate still favours the Claimant

The discount rate is a percentage that is applied in claims where an injured person receives compensation now but this is to cover losses that they are expected to incur the future.  There is accelerated receipt of the money and the court therefore assumes that the injured person will invest their compensation and earn interest on it.

Between 2001 and 2017 the discount rate was set at 2.5%.  This was very favourable to the Defendants and it meant that if a Claimant was claiming 20 years’ worth of lost earnings the Defendants would only need to pay out just over 15 years’ worth as it was assumed the Claimant would be able to cover the missing years with the interest they had earned.

For many years, Claimant’s solicitors and organisations representing injured people said this was not good enough and that Claimants were being short changed.  They could not cover the loss with low risk investments as had previously been anticipated.

The Government, by way of the Lord Chancellor, did not look at this again until 2017 when the discount rate fell to -0.75%.

This caused a tidal wave of responses as insurance companies and the NHS lobbied for the discount rate to be reviewed again immediately as it would cost them millions in additional damages despite the savings they had previously and unjustly been making.  It was a very good time to settle claims for the Claimant as instead of recovering 20 years’ worth of lost earnings they were suddenly recovering nearly 22 years’ worth and the greater the period of loss, the greater the additional recovery for the Claimant.

In just over 2 years the Lord Chancellor announced the result of a review of the discount rate which was to be applied from 5 August 2019.  The new rate of -0.25% has increased but only marginally so, much to the chagrin of Defendants and their representatives who had expected a result much closer to the previous 2.5% rate.

While this is good news for the Claimant, it should be noted that the Government are clearly now going to review the discount rate more regularly and given the length of time it takes to settle the high value multi track cases where discount rates are applicable, there is no certainty that a case you take on today will reap the benefits of such a low discount rate by the time compensation is awarded in 4 years’ time!

Ashleigh Holt – September 2019

The First 100 Years Project – a History of Women in Law

I recently had the pleasure of hearing about this project in a talk to a packed conference from an inspiring lady Dana Denis-Smith, creator of the project. She explained that the hope is this endeavour will record in both writing and a video library the experiences of women in the legal profession since they were allowed to join in 1919 and help to demonstrate the progress made by women in legal careers over the last 100 years.

I am ashamed to admit that despite being a female solicitor I had little knowledge of the journey taken by and the hardships endured by my predecessors whose actions have allowed me to practice law today. I was fascinated to hear the stories of these women whose determination, perseverance and courage paved the way for all future women wanting to enter a career in law.

100 years ago the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was passed, without which women would never have even been able to  be accepted into this and many other professions previously considered only suitable for men. However, even before the 1919 Act there were pioneers fighting for the right to join this males only profession. Janet Wood in 1878 became the first female to complete a law degree despite the fact she was not allowed to be officially granted the degree she had passed with first class honours! Later came Eliza Orme who in 1879 was refused permission to sit the Law Society exams to become a solicitor. Despite this she persevered in pursuit of this career and in 1888 became the first woman to actually earn and receive the law degree she had studied for at University College London, although she could not then practice law. Finally in 2020 Madge Easton Anderson had the privilege of becoming the first female solicitor admitted to the Law Society after the passing of the 1919 Act.

The Project has researched and recorded as many of the very inspiring women and trailblazers who irrevocably changed for the better women’s opportunities in this profession. In addition to this they have taken video diaries from many inspiring female legal professionals still alive, whose stories of their fight to be given equal rights and opportunities, even fairly recently, are recorded forever for future generations. I imagine it will be hard for the next generation of women to believe there was ever a time when they had no freedom to choose their profession and that is testament to the incredible women included within this project.

The Digital Museum and all other information about this remarkable “First 100 Years” project can be found on their website https://first100years.org.uk

Joanne Davies – August 2019

Hospital’s failure to treat infection resulted in “flesh-eating disease”

H underwent a caesarean section to deliver her first baby.  Whilst in hospital afterwards, she felt very unwell, with a raised temperature, feeling hot and cold, shivery and had an increased heart rate.  She also suffered from a lot of pain in the caesarean section wound.  Her blood test results were abnormal indicating she had an infection but despite this, she was discharged home to look after her new born son.

The following day, she went to see her GP who diagnosed a wound infection and prescribed antibiotics.  The day after, she had deteriorated further so she returned to hospital where she was diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, commonly known as the flesh-eating disease.  She required 4 surgeries to remove large amounts of dead tissue which were incredibly painful for her and left her with scarring to her stomach.  She was distressed both by her own illness and the separation it caused from her new born baby and she subsequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was the evidence of our expert that she had clear signs of infection throughout her admission to hospital and these simply were not acted upon.  Had she been prescribed antibiotics at any time before her discharge 5 days after the caesarean section, the infection would have resolved and it would not have progressed to necrotising fasciitis.

The hospital denied this and suggested that the disproportionate pain she experienced following the surgery was because she was overweight. We alleged this pain was, amongst other symptoms, a sign of infection.  H’s weight was a common theme throughout the claim and reflected disparaging comments about her weight that had been made to H whilst she was in hospital.

As the hospital was of the view their treatment was reasonable, as was the decision to discharge her, we proceeded to issue court proceedings and the claim settled shortly thereafter.

If you suspect you or a member of your family has received negligent treatment and would like some advice as to how best to proceed, please contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to speak to you and advise you on the merits of a clinical negligence claim.

Kathryn Watson – August 2019

A head injury after fainting

Simon was in his mid 20’s when he dislocated his finger.  He went to the Accident and Emergency Department of his local hospital.  He was seen by a nurse who successfully put his finger back into joint by manipulating it.  However, whilst she was doing this Simon fainted and fell to the floor, hitting his head and knocking himself unconscious.

To avoid this sort of thing happening it is standard practice for patients to be seated whilst manipulations are taking place.  The nurse failed to follow this practice on this particular occasion.  The hospital therefore admitted fault quite quickly.  All that had to be decided was how much compensation should be awarded.

At first sight, it did not seem as if this would be much.  Simon was off work for about 3 months and then got back to his pub management job.  However, as with a number of head injuries, it took time before the full effects became apparent.  After about a year or so Simon thought his memory was deteriorating.  Before the fall he was able to recall everyone’s telephone number and deal with several tasks at the same time.  His inability to continue to do this led to frustration with his job and difficulties in his personal relationships.  As time went by these problems became greater and they resulted in him losing his job and his marriage breaking down.

The claim settled a month before the trial to decide the amount of compensation was due to take place, for £125,000.  Happily Simon has learned techniques to cope with his memory defects which have enabled him to be reunited with his wife and embark on a new career.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2019

Government now picking up the tab for GP errors

Historically, GPs and any staff in general practice, including nurses, needed to arrange their own personal indemnity cover with a medical defence organisation in order to indemnify them in claims against them for medical negligence.  This would be in a similar way to you or I arranging insurance cover against loss or damage caused by us or others to our cars or our homes.  However, the position for all claims arising from incidents that occurred on or after 1 April 2019 against anyone working in primary care NHS services is that they will now be handled by NHS Resolution under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice.  (CNSGP).

The main function of NHS Resolution, formerly known as NHS Litigation Authority is to manage claims made against the NHS  in England.  The main reason for the introduction of this latest scheme is to reduce the cost of indemnity cover for individual health care providers but what are the benefits and pitfalls for the Claimant.

NHS Resolution have been doing this type of work for many, many years so they are well versed in how to manage the claims and having one single point of contact for claimants will be helpful in those cases where the GP or staff member has moved on and the Claimant is having difficulty tracing them or confirming their medical defence organisation details and whether they indeed had indemnity cover.  It will also allow scope for other settlement options that weren’t open to GPs previously such as periodical payment orders i.e., where the injured party receives an annual sum for an element or elements of the claim rather than one large lump sum.  This is usually applicable in cases involving catastrophic injuries and this type of settlement can be very attractive to such injured claimants.

NHS Resolution is however not a perfect model.  We routinely see claims being defended, despite admissions of unacceptable treatment being previously made by way of complaints or the Trust’s own root cause analysis investigations.  The cases then have to be pursued and litigated increasing the costs in the claim and the amount of time it takes to reach a settlement.

At this early stage, it is too early to tell if this is a good move but what we can almost certainly guarantee is that we will hear about the increased costs to the tax payer of dealing with these claims.

Ashleigh Holt – July 2019

Bicep injury attracts compensation of over £60,000

In addition to his usual daily employment, Mr B worked as a bouncer a few evenings a week to supplement his income and support his large family.  It was on one of these evenings that he felt something snap in his left upper arm which immediately felt painful and weak.  The following day, his arm was still painful and a bruise had started to form just past his left elbow.  Within 48 hours there was heavy red bruising around the arm and his bicep muscle appeared to be moving under his arm.

Mr B attended his local Accident and Emergency Department and was seen by an Emergency Care Practitioner.  She examined his arm and diagnosed a partial rupture of his left bicep.  She discussed the diagnosis with a doctor and then discharged Mr B with advise to rest the arm.  Mr B accepted the advice but became concerned after a few months that his arm was just not improving so he consulted his GP who referred him to an Orthopaedic Surgeon.  He was eventually seen by a specialist 9 months after the original injury and was diagnosed with a complete rupture of his bicep however secondary reconstruction at this late stage carried a 40 – 50% risk of nerve injury resulting in further permanent disability seriously affecting the function of his arm.  Mr B was strongly advised against any surgical intervention and a subsequent ultrasound scan confirmed the diagnosis.

As a result of the continued weakness and discomfort in his arm, and the lack of treatment options, Mr B was unable to continue working as doorman and he continues to be at a disadvantage on the open labour market.

Initially Mr B made a complaint to the Trust about the standard of treatment he had received.  The Trust’s first response was to advise that they had referred him to physiotherapy and had therefore discharged their duty of care.  Mr B objected to this and following a meeting with the Trust, they conceded they could not confirm that a physiotherapy referral had been made.  Mr B sought our help at this point and we agreed to investigate his case and offered him a “no win, no fee” agreement.

With the assistance of independent expert witnesses in the fields of Nursing and Orthopaedic Surgery, we discovered that there is a duty on examining clinicians to confirm or refute if a patient has suffered a total rupture.  This would usually be by way of a scan or a referral to the fracture clinic so that the patient can be examined by an Orthopaedic Surgeon.  There is some urgency in getting the diagnosis in an injury like this as repairs are easiest and most successful if carried out within 3 weeks in which case the patient will usually recover 95% of their original strength.  A referral to physiotherapy would be inadequate when the nature of the injury has not been confirmed.

A formal Letter of Claim setting out our allegations was sent to the Trust and a full admission of breach of duty and causation was admitted within the 4 month pre action protocol period in which the Defendants have to respond.  An initial offer of settlement was made in the sum of £10,000 however this was rejected because of the loss of earnings he had suffered in being unable to continue his door work.

Negotiations commenced and just before court proceedings were to be started the Defendants made a reasonable offer in full and final settlement of the claim.

The injury Mr B suffered is considered relatively minor.  He had a good degree of function remaining in his arm.  He was able to continue in his main employment and while being a doorman was no longer suitable for him, he was able to undertake other types of evening jobs if he wanted to in order to minimise his loss.  Therefore the element of the compensation he received for the actual injury was assessed at around £12,500 meaning that he recovered over £50,000 in past and future loss of earnings.

It is not uncommon for injuries considered less serious than others to attract higher awards of compensation because of the impact the injury can have on other areas of a person’s life.  Someone can have limited pain but they may suffer other restrictions in their life that they can be compensated for.

If you have suffered a similar injury, it is worth taking the time to get some from a specialist solicitor before dismissing it as being “not worth it”.  Our solicitors are more than happy to discuss this with you.

Ashleigh Holt, June 2019

Success Rates when you sue the NHS

The latest NHS Annual Report provides some interesting facts that don’t always make it into the mainstream media.  For example:

  • The number of claims made in 2018 was just over 10,000, down from 12,000 in 2013.
  • Only 54% of claims made result in the payment of compensation.
  • 40% of successful claims are worth under £25,000.
  • 40% settle for between £25,000 and £100,000.
  • 20% settle for over £100,000.
  • Claimants legal costs are down 6%.

So, there is no increase in claims, half fail and of the rest, just under half go for under £25,000.  Enforcing your legal rights when something goes wrong is not bankrupting the NHS.  Don’t always believe this myth that we are in the midst of a ‘Compensation Culture’.

Hilton Armstrong, June 2019

Best Medical Claims Law Firm – Northern UK & Leading Specialist in Clinical Negligence Law 2019

I am delighted to announce that we have achieved another award recognising our achievements and specialism in Clinical Negligence in the North East of England. Armstrong Foulkes LLP were successful in being named the “Best Medical Claims Law Firm – Northern UK & Leading Specialist in Clinical Negligence Law 2019” in the inaugural SME Legal Awards. Confirmation of our award can be found at the SME News Website where the press release states

“The legal industry plays a significant role in the UK economy, not only in terms of employment numbers but their overall contribution to the national economy, exports and the UK’s trade. As such, SME News is proud to introduce the inaugural UK Legal Awards to its roster, with the intention to recognise and spotlight the very best that this innovative and competitive industry has to offer.

 As an independent awarding body, business size or reach are not the only deciding factors for our nominations. Rather we focus more on the quality of dedication and innovation within the work done and in forming positive relations with clients.

 Kaven Cooper, Award Coordinator discusses the success of this year’s programme: “It is with great pride that I present the winners of this prestigous awards programme. Congratulations to all my winners, and best of luck for the future.”  

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.”

We pride ourselves on offering a “personal service” where you case is handled by experienced Solicitors practising only in this area of law and with our practice handling cases largely in the local area we can offer availability by in person to speak to your solicitor when required reinforcing our company motto of “personal care for medical claims”. We are honoured to be recognised as a leading firm in Clinical Negligence Law in our area.

Please do visit the SME Legal website for more details at https://www.sme-news.co.uk/2019-the-2019-sme-legal-awards-press-release for the press release and https://www.sme-news.co.uk/2019-armstrong-foulkes-llp for our award page.

As always do not hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our qualified solicitors on 01642 231110 on a no obligation basis if you have suffered medical negligence or have concerns about treatment you have received.

Joanne Davies – May 2019

Delay in diagnosis of ruptured oesophagus

In December 2015, Mr H underwent surgery to his left hand.  Afterwards, he vomited as a result of the anaesthetic he had been given, experienced a lot of pain and then began to vomit blood.  He was given an anti-emetic (to stop him being sick) and pain relief.

Over the next few days his condition deteriorated and he was in a lot more pain.  An x-ray and CT scan were performed which showed he had ruptured his oesophagus.  Unfortunately, due to the delay in diagnosis, it was no longer possible to surgically repair his oesophagus and it had to be left to heal by itself.  However, Mr H required open surgery to insert a tube into his stomach through which he was fed for 4 weeks.  He then had to gradually reintroduce drinking and eating, firstly with water, then juice, followed by soup and finally a soft diet.

A few weeks after his discharge from hospital, Mr H had to be readmitted to hospital as his oesophagus had re-ruptured.  Once again, he had to be fed through a tube into his stomach.

The hospital admitted very early on that they should have diagnosed the ruptured oesophagus much earlier when, on the balance of probabilities, Mr H would have undergone surgical repair and avoided all the subsequent problems.  After negotiation between the parties, the case was settled for £45,000.

If you or a family member think you may have received substandard medical treatment and would like advice on bringing a medical negligence claim, please telephone us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to advise you.

Kathryn Watson – May 2019

LIMITED TIME TO CLAIM- DON’T DELAY IN SEEKING ADVICE

A lot of people are aware, mainly from television and radio advertisements, that you have 3 years to bring a personal injury/clinical negligence claim.  This is what is known as the limitation period.  If you do not start court proceedings within 3 years of the allegedly negligent treatment, or within 3 years of when you suspected or ought to have suspected you may have received negligent treatment if that is later, you may be barred from bringing a claim.

What these adverts often do not make clear is what needs to be done before you will be in a position to issue court proceedings.  These adverts often relate to simple personal injury or road traffic claims.  Clinical negligence claims are by their very nature much more complex and the following steps need to be taken before we can issue court proceedings:

  • We need to obtain all of the relevant medical records.  Under the Data Protection Act 2018 (for living patients) and the Access to Health Records Act 1990 (for deceased patients), the holder of these records, such as the hospital or GP, has one month to disclose them to us.  Frequently the records are not disclosed to us within this time and we have to threaten or, in some cases issue, proceedings purely for a court order for disclosure.  If we need a court order, this can take several months to obtain.
  • We then need to obtain expert evidence on breach of duty (what if anything was done wrongly) and causation (whether this caused any injury).  The experts we use are at the very top of their field and so are usually very busy with NHS work, their private practice and other medico-legal work.  It is therefore not unusual to have to wait several months for a report but as cases stand or fall on the expert evidence, it is important we go to the right expert even if this results in some delay.  In a lot of cases, we need more than one expert to assist us in proving the claim.
  • Once we know what our allegations are, we need to put these to the Defendant under the pre-action protocol.  The Defendant then has 4 months to investigate and respond.
  • During this time, we need to investigate the long term effect the injury has caused and the value of the case.  This is frequently far from straight forward, particularly when someone’s prognosis is not yet known, often because they are still receiving treatment for their injury.
  • Should the Defendant make a reasonable offer of settlement once they have investigated the claim, court proceedings will not be necessary.  However, if they deny they did anything wrong or even if they admit it but make too low an offer, we will then need to issue proceedings.

People frequently contact us regarding a potential medical negligence claim only a few weeks or months before the limitation period expires.  This is completely understandable; they have often had a life changing injury which has monopolised their time and attention, lost a loved one which has taken some time to come to terms with, or sometimes they simply hope they will make a full recovery and so will not take matters any further.  Whatever the reason, these people have been through an awful time and 3 years can pass by very quickly.

Whilst these people have our utmost sympathy, we are unable to take on a clinical negligence claim if we do not have enough time to investigate.  Whilst there is the possibility of the Defendant agreeing to give us extra time to investigate or a Judge allowing the claim to be brought out of time, there is no guarantee we would be able to secure either option and ultimately the claim may fail, not because of the merits of the claim, but simply because it has been brought too late.

If you think you or a family member has been injured as a result of medical treatment, please seek advice as soon as possible.  Whilst the limitation period may not start as soon as the negligence occurred if you were unaware of it and had no reason to suspect otherwise, the 3 year period will start to run as soon as you suspected, or ought to have suspected, you may have received negligent treatment.  This is known as your “date of knowledge”.  You have 3 years from your date of knowledge to bring a claim, and this can range from the time the negligence occurred, if you were aware of it straight away, to several years later.

We appreciate that should you have been injured as a result of medical treatment, you and your family will have a lot to deal with without the added stress of a legal claim.  However, by the time you feel able to investigate the claim, it may be too late and you may be unable to secure compensation for your injuries.

Our solicitors try to make bringing a claim as easy and stress-free as possible as we understand that you will no doubt be going through a very difficult time.  If you would like advice about treatment you or a family member has received, please telephone us on 01642 231110 for some free, no obligation advice from one of our solicitors.

Kathryn Watson – April 2019

Lexcel Award – excellence in Legal Practice Management and Client Care

We are delighted to announce that following re-assessment in February 2019 our firm were awarded again the Lexcel Award for meeting a high quality of standards in practice management and client care. The Award is made by the Law Society of England & Wales if a firm can demonstrate excellence in the ways they manage the practice and deal with clients. Once awarded there is an annual assessment and a more thorough assessment every 3 years to ensure that a firm continues to meet the requirements for this. We were first awarded this by the Law Society in 2015 and are pleased that we continue to perform to the high standards expected to qualify for this.

Our staff work hard to ensure we maintain the standards in the seven different areas that are assessed:

  1. structure and strategy,
  2. financial management,
  3. information management,
  4. people management,
  5. risk management,
  6. client care,
  7. file and case management.

In many areas we were noted to have met and also exceeded the necessary requirements. The assessor commented that the firm “was a very notable demonstration of Lexcel compliance” and that “it was a pleasure to discover all of the requirements Lexcel standard has been met and no non compliances raised”. We are proud to have qualified for this award again and will continue to strive to meet and exceed these standards in the years to come.

Joanne Davies – April 2019

Amputation of the arm

Bill is a charming 78 year old retired seaman.  He fell at home and dislocated his left shoulder.  He went to hospital but didn’t receive the proper treatment.  The doctors failed to diagnose what is known as a false aneurysm.  This is where blood is left and then clots in an area where it shouldn’t be. In Bill’s case, the internal bleed was from his left shoulder into his left upper arm.

Over the following weeks/months his left arm became very swollen and painful.  When he was eventually referred to the Orthopaedic Surgeons, action was taken.  Unfortunately this was too late to save his left arm which had to be amputated at the shoulder.

His Consultant at the hospital was very honest with him and said that had he seen him sooner he probably could have sorted out the problem without the arm being lost.  We took the case on and secured an admission of blame from the hospital.  We settled the claim shortly after starting court proceedings.

Bill, whilst delighted with the settlement, like all injured patients, would have preferred to be fully able rather than have the compensation.

Hilton Armstrong – March 2019

Coronary disease misdiagnosed as tennis elbow

During the Christmas holidays Mrs A developed pain going down her left arm and pain from her right ear travelling down into her jaw, neck and top of her chest.  The pains would come and go in waves and would wake her from her sleep so when things did not resolve after a few days she attended a Walk in centre to see a GP.

The GP carried out an examination and diagnosed her as suffering from gastro-oesophageal reflux due to over indulgence in the festive period and tennis elbow for which she should take Paracetamol.

Mrs A’s symptoms continued and she began to feel worse.  She planned to make an appointment at her own GP practice when it re-opened but she was not afforded this opportunity and suffered a cardiac arrest at home in the meantime.  Her collapse was witnessed by her youngest child whose screams alerted Mrs A’s husband.  A 999 call was made and Mr A performed CPR until the Paramedics arrived.  Mrs A was taken to hospital but died a few days later.

Mr A approached us to investigate the standard of care that his wife had received from the GP who had seen his wife.  With the assistance of an independent GP expert witness and an independent expert witness in Cardiology we were able to establish that the GP had failed in his duty of care to Mrs A in not identifying that her symptoms could have a cardiac cause and to refer her urgently to hospital for investigations.  We were able to say that on the balance of probabilities, the results of these investigations would have been abnormal and lead to Mrs A being commenced on an acute coronary syndrome pathway including medication and stenting of blocked arteries.

With this treatment, she would have avoided the cardiac arrest and importantly she would have survived and lived to an old age.

Solicitors for the GP initially admitted breach of duty but denied that that the failure to refer Mrs A to hospital had made any difference to the outcome.  Formal Court proceedings then had to be started and the Defendants quickly made a full admission of liability for Mrs A’s death.

Mrs A had been the primary carer for her children while her husband worked and as a result the majority of the compensation claimed was for the loss of care and services Mrs A had provided to her family.  A 6 figure settlement was agreed between the parties and was  approved by the Court.

Acute coronary syndrome can be misdiagnosed as the symptoms, particularly in women, can mimic other conditions and can be atypical.  The consequences of failing to pick up on early signs can be catastrophic and as illustrated in this case, it can be fatal.  Early diagnosis and treatment is essential.

If you have suffered as a result of a missed or delayed diagnosis, we would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Ashleigh Holt – February 2019

The Legal 500 UK 2019 awards

We were delighted to have been shortlisted for this prestigious national award.  We didn’t win it but managed to get down to the final 8 firms in the country! The category we were in was:

  • Insurance: Individual: outside of London of the year – Hilton Armstrong

According to Legal 500 “Over many months of thorough research, we have conducted 70,000 interviews with in-house counsel, law firms and sets in the UK to pin-point the most capable, expert practitioners and firms operating at the top of their game across a number of different business sectors. The awards are unique in the legal industry as they recognise each element of the profession equally, representing the very best law firms, chambers, silks, in-house lawyers, business leaders and general counsel operating within the UK market”

The full list of categories is available  here:

The shortlists for the law firm awards are available to view here: https://www.legal500.com/assets/pages/awards/uk/2019/uk-2019-firms-shortlist.html

Hilton Armstrong – February 2019

Favourable changes in claims for surrogacy

As a firm we have previously acted for clients who have lost the ability to conceive and carry a child naturally as a result of medical negligence.  Until very recently our hands have been tied as to what our clients could claim for.  We have been able to recover as compensation the costs of IVF treatment and in some cases for our clients to engage a surrogate in the UK to carry a child on their behalf and the expenses associated with this but there are strict limits which reflect the current law in the UK which in turn have meant a limit on compensation levels.

Despite surrogacy becoming increasingly popular and accepted, the law in the UK has not quite kept up with this so while surrogacy is legal, it is also restricted, particularly when compared to the laws in other countries such as the USA.  Notably:

  1. In the UK no one can profit from surrogacy.  Therefore the surrogate can only claim her expenses.
  2. In the UK, once the child is born, the surrogate is regarded as the legal mother.  This is even the case where the surrogate has carried someone else’s biological child.  A court order is required to give the intended parents the correct legal status and it is possible for the birth mother to refuse to part with the child.
  3. In the UK, the surrogate will chose the parent/parents she wants to assist.  This is often done at “parties” which can be intimidating and frightening for couples who have already been dealt a vicious blow.

In the recent case of XX and Whittington Hospital NHS Trust (2017) EWHC 2318 QB, a High Court Judge held that XX’s claim for the expenses of using a surrogate in California where commercial surrogacy is widely accepted and legal were not recoverable because commercial arrangements in the UK were illegal and it was against public policy.  He therefore limited XX’s claim to using her own egg’s and a surrogate in the UK and the associated costs of that.  The total compensation he allowed for this was £74,000 which was intend to produce two children.

Despite the damning judgement, the Judge did suggest that the Supreme Court which is the final court of appeal in the UK may see things differently.  XX was therefore allowed to appeal this decision and the matter was heard at the Court of Appeal in November 2018.  The outcome was that her appeal was successful and it was held that she should not be barred from recovering reasonable compensation for her loss which would include the costs or entering into a lawful commercial surrogacy contract in California.  She would not be breaking any laws.

This is an exciting development in this area of the law.  Claimants from the UK who need to engage a surrogate can now claim the costs entering into a contract with a surrogate in the USA who essentially carries and gives birth to other people’s children for a living.  Claimant’s will now no longer be restricted to having to use their own eggs but will be able to use donor eggs from a surrogate of their choice or another donor and they will be able to return to the UK with the child legally theirs.

The obvious downside to this in terms of the “public purse” is the difference in cost.  In the USA, to produce two live births via a surrogate the associated costs will run into perhaps hundreds of thousands but to someone who has been told they will not be able to have a child, no amount of compensation can restore them to how they would have been but for the negligence.

If you have been affected by infertility as a result of failed or unacceptable medical treatment, please contact us to discuss this further.

Ashleigh Holt – January 2019

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

Failure to prevent MRSA results in Amputation

Mrs K slipped on ice injuring her left knee.   At hospital she was told she needed surgery to repair her patella tendon was required. Unfortunately the hospital failed to follow their own infection control procedures and did not properly decolonise her.  This means they did not clean the relevant areas where she may have been carrying MRSA on her body before the operation and provide antibiotics which would prevent MRSA afterwards.

After the surgery she noticed pus leaking from the bottom of her plaster cast.  She was eventually diagnosed with an infected left knee wound and she had further surgery to treat this but again without proper MRSA prevention steps.  After this second surgery, she was diagnosed as being infected with MRSA and the correct treatment was then provided however this involved a third operation to remove some of the infection which had also reached the knee replacement joint which had to be taken out.

Over the following 9 months the infections failed to clear and this had a massive impact on her  health and her family life. She struggled to get around her home and her family had to convert a room downstairs for her to sleep in as she couldn’t make it upstairs. Mrs K was left with no option but to have a left below knee amputation.

We were approached by Mrs K after the amputation. After investigating the standard of treatment she received we were able to put the case to the Defendant NHS Trust who admitted a failure to follow their own infection control procedures and prevent the MRSA infection resulting in the amputation. Mrs K was forced into a wheelchair due to a wholly unsuitable NHS prosthetic limb which she could not wear for long periods of time and was not very flexible.

Due to the admissions made we were able to refer Mrs K to a private prosthetic company who properly assessed her needs including a desire to be more active with her young family. We secured funding from the Defendant to obtain an excellent microprocessor waterproof prosthetic limb which was in the past offered only to those injured members of the Armed Forces. This prosthetic limb, which was properly fitted to her stump allowed her to be more mobile, to walk on surfaces she had been unable to do so with the NHS prosthesis and to go swimming with her family. This made a massive difference to her life.

Mrs K had several other unrelated health problems which delayed full assessment of her claim, but the parties were able to reach a settlement which will allow her to fund the maintenance of and replacement of her prosthetic limb for life, to purchase more suitable single storey accommodation and support her financial needs now and in the future arising out of the amputation. Mrs K has said she feels she can now move on with her life.

MRSA is present on many people’s bodies and causes no harm in the absence of an open wound. However before any surgery like this a person should be tested for MRSA and the area decolonised and therefore fully cleaned of the MRSA infection. Hospitals have very clear infection control policies to prevent this kind of mistake occurring and a failure to follow these policies is difficult to defend.

Early funding for physical needs or equipment required because of the mistakes made by NHS Trusts can often be secured if the Trust accept responsibility for injuries. These payments can allow life to be improved for those who have been injured long before the case is settled.

If you would like to discuss a similar situation or any treatment you have received which you feel caused you an injury or worsened an existing injury please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Joanne Davies – December 2018

Delay in Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

Catherine was 53 when she died of stomach cancer.  2 years earlier her GP had referred her to hospital after she went to see him complaining of a feeling of fullness in her tummy.  She had an endoscopy, and biopsy, and was told all was clear and that she probably just had an ulcer.  This came as a great relief to her husband, Keith, and their children.  Unfortunately, as they were to find out a year later, the Pathologist had made a mistake when examining the biopsy.  She was not in the clear.  She had cancer which needed operating on.  By the time this was discovered it was too late and she died 2 months later.

The hospital were quick to admit that the Pathologist had made a mistake but defended the claim on the basis that even if the cancer had been diagnosed earlier, Catherine would still probably have died.  Shortly before a trial date was fixed we managed to persuade the hospital’s Solicitors to settle out of Court for £57,500.  As Catherine did not work and the children had grown up, it is a sad fact of the English legal system that compensation for the Husband and adult children in cases such as this can never reflect the true value of the loss.

Hilton Armstrong – November 2018

Hospitals are responsible for the advice given by receptionists! – Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust

The Supreme Court have this month ruled that incorrect information on waiting times at A&E given by a  receptionist at the Mayday Hospital, Croydon resulting in permanent brain damage could be considered negligent. The Court decided that it justified an award of compensation in the same way as incorrect doctor’s advice or treatment would.

Mr Darnley attended A&E with a head injury and feeling very unwell, only to be told by the receptionist that there was a 4 or 5 hour waiting time before he could be seen by a doctor. After waiting for 19 minutes and feeling very unwell he left unable to face the prospect of several hours wait. He was returned to hospital later that night as an emergency. He was diagnosed as suffering a large bleed on the brain and despite surgery he suffered permanent brain damage. He and his legal team argued that he been treated sooner or immediately on collapse he would have made a nearly full recovery.  He made a claim for compensation against the NHS Trust who run the hospital for the brain damage suffered and its effect on his life.

The A&E receptionists working there agreed that in this situation they would usually advise a patient would seen by a Triage Nurse in 30 minutes and/or would consider priority Triage but neither admitted to giving the mistaken advice. Mr Darnley argues that if he had been told this he would never have left hospital after 19 minutes and the bleed would have been diagnosed and treated sooner. When this was first heard by a Judge the claim was unsuccessful. It was appealed and the Court of Appeal ruled that it was not negligent for incorrect advice on waiting times to be given by the receptionist and that the injury was not caused by this in any event.

Mr Darnley then appealed this further to the Supreme Court who have this month ruled that a receptionist giving waiting time advice in an A&E department like this has a duty of care to the patients to act appropriately. They are responsible for the advice given in the same way any medical professional is. These receptionists/non-medical staff were given the role by the Trust as the first point of contact and owed a duty to the patients. They also stated that there was a direct link between this advice on waiting times and the injury he suffered as a result and that earlier diagnosis would have resulted in admission and earlier treatment with a nearly full recovery.

This is an important case as it establishes that incorrect advice from non-medical staff working for NHS Trusts, in particular an A&E receptionist, which results in an injury to a person could justify a claim for damages like any other compensation claim arising out of negligence by medical professionals. The circumstances of each case and whether the  advice caused an injury will need to be considered but if you feel you have been in a situation like this please do not hesitate to speak to one of our solicitors on 01642 231110 for a free no obligation chat.

Joanne Davies – November 2018

Second Opinions – how to get them

A lot of what Doctors and lawyers tell you is their opinion and not necessarily factual.  As professionals we need to exercise our judgment based on our experience.  Often what we say is not what you want to hear, but it is our job to tell it as we see it.

So, for example your doctor may tell you that after looking at the scans your cancer is inoperable and only palliative care is required.  Or, the slipped disc in your back requires surgery that may result in you having to give up sport or work.

From the patient or client’s point of view sometimes this can be hard to comprehend and accept.  So what can you do if you are not convinced by what your doctor has told you?  You need to follow these steps:

  1. Ask the doctor to explain again. Step by step, and slowly.  Are they absolutely certain that their view is correct?  At this point your doctor will probably accept that there is a range of opinion but go on to explain why they think they are right.
  2. If you still feel unconvinced by their explanation ask them if they would object to you obtaining a second opinion. They are unlikely to disagree.  Usually they will recommend one of their colleagues, or alternatively you may have your own idea of who to go to.
  3. If your treatment is under the NHS it is even possible to choose a doctor from outside the hospital you are being treated at. If that is the case you would need to contact them and make arrangements for a consultation.  If you are paying privately then you would have to pay for the second opinion.
  4. When you see the new doctor after a discussion they will give you their own opinion. It may be the same as your original doctor or it may be different. If different you will need to talk about transferring your care to the new doctor.

It is important to understand that by asking for a second opinion you are not falling out with your doctor.  They will not be offended at all.  On the contrary they will probably encourage it as they will feel a lot more comfortable about your intended treatment if another doctor agrees with them.

Hilton Armstrong – October 2018

Failing to act on abnormal Echocardiogram leads to heart failure

Mr P was referred to a Consultant Respiratory Physician at James Cook University Hospital after developing shortness of breath and a cough in 2014.  Over the next 3 months the Consultant arranged a series of investigations including an Echocardiogram (Echo).  This showed Mr P had a mild left ventricular systolic impairment.

Mr P was told the Echo was normal and 3 months later he was referred to another hospital for a second opinion.  The referral letter requesting the second opinion advised that the  Echo was “normal”.

Mr P’s condition continued to deteriorate.  By March 2016 he was struggling with day to day activities.  He was unable to sleep as he was struggling to breathe when he lay down.  He could not make it upstairs to bed.  In May 2016 he attended a review appointment and his condition prompted his Consultant to admit him to hospital there and then for further investigation.  A second echocardiogram now showed significant left ventricular dysfunction and Mr P was told he was in severe heart failure.  His left ventricle was narrowed and his aorta was only working 15 – 20%.

Mr P’s care was transferred to a Cardiologist and he was started on a number of anti-heart failure medications.  He was initially unable to return to work as a HGV driver as his condition had to be reported to the DVLA and his driving licence.  It was later returned when a further echocardiogram showed that he was responding to the medication and his condition had improved.

We investigated the standard of care Mr P had received with an independent Respiratory Physician and Cardiologist.  They confirmed that he should have been referred to a Cardiologist following his first Echo and he would have been commenced on treatment 2 years earlier.  Had this occurred, the progression of his condition would have been slower and he would not have developed heart failure in 2016.

These allegations were put to the Trust and were admitted.  A financial settlement was achieved quite quickly for a 5 figure sum.  However, Mr P had lost 2 years of his and his young son’s life and his heart condition had been accelerated.

If you have suffered an injury as a result of a test or investigation being wrongly reported or interpreted and you would like to discuss this please contact us for free no obligation advice.

Ashleigh Holt – September 2018

Avoidable pressure injuries admitted by hospital as part of their duty of candour

Mrs P, an 80 year old lady at the time of treatment, developed severe pressure injuries to her heels and buttock whilst an inpatient at the James Cook University Hospital.  The pressure sore to her right heel was particularly serious, requiring multiple courses of antibiotics due to infection of the bone, hospitalisation, surgical debridement and taking 9 months to heal.

Initially, she did not consider that these sores may have developed as a result of substandard treatment.  However, the hospital adhered to their duty of candour which stipulates that medical professionals should be open and honest with patients and admit when something has gone wrong.  It was only after they told her they thought the sores were avoidable did she decide to contact us for advice.

We took her case on to investigate the standard of the nursing care whilst she was an inpatient.  Our nursing expert was critical of the nurses who had been responsible for Mrs P and identified a number of failings in their care, in particular failing to ensure adequate pressure relief by the use of repositioning and pressure relieving devices.  We then obtained expert evidence from a vascular surgeon on the effects of the injuries Mrs P sustained and he was also critical of the treatment she received from her treating doctors – she was suffering from leg ischaemia which required revascularisation surgery.  Had this been performed earlier, the injuries to her heels would have been avoided.

The hospital was slow to respond to our allegations of negligence and only did so once we were about to issue court proceedings.  They admitted liability and the claim was settled shortly thereafter for £25,000.

In this case, the hospital followed the duty of candour policy and informed Mrs P that, in their opinion, the injuries she sustained were avoidable.  Often, hospitals and doctors are not so forthcoming.  If you think you have suffered an injury as a result of negligent treatment, please contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to advise you.  There is no obligation on you to pursue a claim and the initial discussion is free of charge.

Kathryn Watson – September 2018

Changes to requests for copy medical records

As a patient, you have a right to see and obtain copies of your medical records (see our previous post https://armstrongfoulkes.co.uk/your-rights-to-access-medical-records/). However, with the introduction of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, the rules surrounding such a request for copy records have changed.

Data Protection Act 2018

Under the new rules, a patient still has a right to request copies of their medical records and the procedure for doing so remains the same.  However, whereas before the organisation holding the records (such as a hospital or GP practice) could charge up to a maximum of £50 to provide copies, there should now be no charge unless the request is “manifestly unfounded or excessive”.  Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, you should be able to obtain copies of your records free of charge.

The new rules also provide that you should receive copies of your records more quickly than previously.  Under the old rules, a provider had 40 days to provide copies whereas this has now been reduced to 1 month from receipt of the request.

Access to Health Records Act 1990

The new rules only apply to request for copy records for a living person and therefore the rules relating to requests for records of someone who has died have not changed.  Such requests are still governed by the Access to Health Records Act 1990.  This act says that the person providing the records is entitled to charge a fee and there is no maximum amount.

We are always happy to speak to you if you need assistance or advice on obtaining your records or about any possible claim. Please feel free to call one of our specialist solicitors on 01642 231110 for a free no obligation chat.

Kathryn Watson – August 2018

No action on suspicious chest x-rays at James Cook University Hospital in the Summer of 2016

SB was only 54 when she died of lung cancer.  A Wife and Mother.  Five months earlier she had been admitted to hospital complaining of chest pains.  She had a chest x-ray which revealed a tumour with a recommendation for an urgent CT scan.  Regrettably SB was not informed of the results and advice for a CT scan was not followed.  She was discharged home with a diagnosis of musco-skeletal chest pain with no further action planned.

The tumour grew.  It wasn’t until 4 weeks before her death that she and the Family were told she had incurable lung cancer and palliative treatment was all that could be offered.  Around the same time the results and recommendation of the earlier chest x-ray were passed on to SB and her Family.  An opportunity for treatment and surgery had been lost and a life unnecessarily shortened.

The family consulted us and we were able to secure an early admission of fault and payment of compensation to the Husband.  I’m afraid that was all the legal system could do.

However, it later transpired that this was not the only missed chest x-ray at JCUH in the Summer of 2016.  We had two other cases where women, also in their 50’s had a chest x-ray which identified a tumour with recommendations for further tests, and in both those cases the information was not acted upon and the women died.  We have taken the matter up with the Chief Executive of the Trust and are awaiting a formal response.  Apologies have been given over the phone and we have been told an explanatory letter is on its way.

Delaying a diagnosis and treatment of cancer of any kind can mean the difference between life and death.  If you have been affected in this way, please get in touch to discuss if there is anything we can do to help.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2018

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

To run a case Lawyers collect and process a lot of information on clients including some personal data e.g. date of birth, email address, national insurance number, passport or driving licence number etc.  We also share this data with others e.g. experts we instruct, the Barrister on the case, the Defendants solicitors etc.  We have to do this or we couldn’t pursue the claim.

The law is changing on 25 May 2018.  This is when the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) comes into force.  It impose obligations on all organisations (not just us Lawyers) to look after this personal data safely, process it lawfully and restrict its access by others.  Clients have the right to see this data and have it deleted at any time, although insisting on deletion whilst a case is ongoing would of course not be practical.

I think GDPR is good news for all of us.  It should ensure that our personal data is looked after more securely by all organisations and not passed on or sold to others without our specific consent.  I am hoping the amount of spam emails and the unsolicited calls and texts we are all plagued by at the moment substantially reduces.  Fingers crossed, although I am not holding my breath!

Hilton Armstrong – June 2018

Premature death of County Durham lung cancer patient

Mrs N was aged 69 when she developed pain in her right shoulder blade.  Her GP arranged for her to have a chest x-ray at a local hospital in April 2013 and this was reported as normal.

Mrs N’s back pain continued.  By the end of 2013 she was suffering some breathing difficulties which were attributed to a chest infection.  When antibiotics failed to improve her condition a second chest x-ray was arranged.  This revealed nodules on her lungs which required further investigation.  She was referred for a CT scan and to a Chest Physician under the 2 week wait rule.

Sadly, the outcome in January 2014 was that Mrs N was suffering from lung cancer.  It was in both lungs and had spread to her spine.  It was at this stage that the Chest Physician realised that the April 2013 x-ray had also shown a mass in Mrs N’s right lung and that this had been missed.

The hospital investigated this error and confirmed that they had contracted out the work of reporting her x-ray to an outside service provider who has missed the lesion.  They could only apologise.

Mrs N commenced treatment and responded well initially.  She was a very fit lady and coped well with the treatment however a follow up CT scan showed that the cancer was progressing.  In February 2015 the cancer was found to have metastasised to her brain and Mrs N passed away in May 2015, aged 72, leaving behind her husband of over 50 years who continued with the claim on her behalf.

The NHS Trust responsible accepted that they had breached their duty to care to Mrs N very early on however they disputed that the 9 month delay made any difference to her treatment or prognosis.  As a result Mr N was forced to issue Court proceedings against the Trust in August 2016.

Mr N’s case, supported by an independent Clinical Oncologist was that

a) His wife’s cancer should have been diagnosed in May 2013.

b) There was no evidence that the cancer had spread by this time and his wife would have been offered surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy.

c) As a result of the delay in diagnosis, the cancer had been allowed to spread so that surgery was no longer an option.

d) His wife’s life had been shortened by more than 2 years as a result.

The NHS Trust disputed the Claimant’s evidence but only months before a trial at the High Court was due to start, the matter was settled in 2018 in Mr N’s favour when he agreed to accept a 5-figure sum in damages.

The motivation for Mr N was never compensation.  He feels that he has finally got justice for his wife but he continues to miss her every day and he feels robbed of the time he should have been able to spend with her.

Delaying a diagnosis and treatment of cancer of any kind can mean the difference between life and death.  If you have been affected in this way, please get in touch with one of our solicitors to discuss if there is anything we can do to help.

Ashleigh Holt – June 2018

The problems for and with Junior Doctors

The title “Junior doctor” can relate to someone just out of medical school or someone who is as much as 5 years out of medical school.

In many hospitals across the UK you will find very junior doctors covering hospitals, particularly at night, with very little support however the responsibility for clinical decisions will still always lie with senior medical staff.

Having such junior staff in very busy departments such as the Emergency Department (ED, formerly A&E) can present a problem for the hospital but also the patient.  This short article will deal with just a few of the issues arising from junior doctors.

  • Junior doctors can be overly cautious.  Just by the nature of the career they have chosen to follow, we know they are high achievers in life and have so far done very well.  They are terrified of making mistakes and this is likely to happen when they start treating real patients.  Much of the work in ED is making numerous decisions and not making the right one can be a terrifying prospect.
  • Junior doctors can be inclined to inherit another doctor’s thinking rather than apply their own judgement.  This can be a particular problem when they are involved in handovers and at the end of shifts.  This can also be a factor in cases involving recurrent attending patients if the junior doctor does not look beyond what his colleague wrote in the notes a week before and he/she fails to listen to the patient or carer.  This can lead to the correct diagnosis being missed.
  • Junior doctors are overworked particularly during night shifts when they are tired and more likely to make a mistake and there is less supervision.
  • Junior doctors by their nature are very inexperienced and this will be apparent in their judgement.  They will struggle with young children as patients.  Quite often this is because the junior doctors have never been around young babies or infants and in most cases will not have started families themselves.  They also struggle with neurological injuries and issues particularly involving the spinal cord or patients with multiple injuries.  All of this increases the risk of them forgetting/missing something.
  • Junior doctors can be pressured to make unsafe clinical decisions.  In many cases the junior doctor will ask for a speciality review (e.g. surgical review for a patient with suspected appendicitis) or ask for some complex imaging such as an MRI.  However in many cases the junior doctor is unable to assert themselves to get someone to see their patient or to get agreement for a scan to go ahead and they accept what in some cases turns out to be unsafe advice to discharge the patient.

The NHS is attempting to minimise mistakes and provide all staff with more support systems and standard operating systems.  For example, many hospitals/Trusts now have specialist teams set up to deal with patients suffering from life threatening and changing conditions such as strokes, sepsis or cardiac arrests.  They are trying to ensure that there is more senior review available and they continue to introduce safety netting policies to cover a range of situations however calamitous mistakes continue to be made and in some cases the mistake was avoidable.

If you are concerned about any treatment or care you have had which you believe has caused you to suffer an injury, please do not hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our specialist solicitors.

Ashleigh Holt – May 2018

Surveillance and Fundamental Dishonesty

Defendants in clinical negligence cases often challenge the claims we put forward on behalf of our clients, and in particular, assert that the injury has had a more minimal effect than we have alleged.  They can do this on the basis of their medical evidence (from the expert doctors they have instructed to assist them with the case) but also by surveillance.

A Defendant is entitled to investigate whether what a Claimant says about of the effect of their injuries upon their lifestyle is genuine.  Whilst they are entitled to do this in any case, in practice, they mainly tend to do it only when a person is severely disabled and their day to day activities are limited as a result.

In our experience there are 2 main ways in which they do this:

  1. Looking at a person’s social media presence, i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. A Defendant can ask a Judge to order a Claimant to provide copies of their posts, photographs etc. for them to consider.
  1. If we claim that a person is housebound, has problems walking, getting in and out of cars or needs help with shopping or doing things outside of the home, the Defendant may check to see if this is genuine. This could involve filming that person, for example, driving, attending the supermarket or at public events to see if the injuries and limitations are consistent what we have claimed.

The benefit to a Defendant if they can show a Claimant is not as badly affected as alleged is twofold.  Firstly, it will help them prove that the level of damages the Claimant is due is less.  Secondly, and more importantly, the Court has power to dismiss the entirety of a claim if it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Claimant has been “fundamentally dishonest” in relation to any aspect of the claim.

This is nothing to worry about and certainly not a reason to avoid looking into bringing a medical negligence claim if you think you may have received substandard treatment.  The vast majority of Claimants are honest and accurately report their symptoms and the effect any injury has had on them.  However, it is something to bear in mind if you are bringing a claim, especially if you are thinking of trying things you previously thought impossible.  In this situation, we would ask that you keep us informed so we can make sure that the Defendant and our experts are aware of it. If you find these changes last for just a short period of time, it will prevent a situation where the Defendant believes they have evidence that you are more able than we have previously stated.

If you would like to discuss this further or think you may have a claim for medical negligence and would like some advice from one of our solicitors, please contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – April 2018

Failure to monitor fetal heart beat leads to stillbirth

Mrs P was 38 weeks pregnant with her second child, a daughter, when she became concerned that she that she had not felt the baby move.  She was referred to hospital by her community midwife and a Consultant Obstetrician admitted her to hospital for the her labour to be induced.  This decision was reversed later the same day by a locum Registrar and Mrs P was discharged.  During the night Mrs P felt her baby move but the movements then stopped and by the following morning Mrs P was feeling contractions.  She was admitted to the delivery suite at the hospital after lunch again with a view that her labour would be induced.

At 18.30 pm the continuous monitoring of Mrs P’s baby was stopped.  Mrs P was moved to a ward later that night and was told that her labour would not be induced until the next morning.  Mrs P’s baby was not monitored again until 9.25 am the following day but the midwife was unable to locate the heartbeat and an ultrasound scan confirmed that Mrs P’s daughter had died.

Mrs P gave birth later that day.  Mr and Mrs P thought their daughter looked perfect.  They were able to dress and bathe her.  At their request no post mortem was carried out and no cause for her death was identified.  Mrs P subsequently suffered a major depression and required counselling.

We were instructed to investigate the standard of care Mrs P had received.  However, in this instance the hospital also commenced early investigations.  An early Letter of Claim to the Trust was following by a full admission of liability in failing to monitor Mrs P’s baby after 18.30 and deliver her earlier so that she would have survived.  Despite the early admission NHS Resolution acting on behalf of the Trust failed to make reasonable offers of compensation in settlement and refused to negotiate so we were forced to start court proceedings.  However, solicitors instructed to act for the Trust made an increased offer which was accepted by Mrs P.

The compensation awarded to Mrs P was made up of a sum for her pain, suffering and loss of amenity but was also to compensate her for past and future financial losses she had and would incur such as the cost of a layette which is the items a new baby needs such as vests and bottles and future counselling.

What we were unable to recover for Mrs P is a statutory bereavement award (currently set at £12,980) because her daughter was not been born alive however the Court regularly awards a sum “equivalent” to a bereavement award and our assessment of the damages recovered in this case included this and ultimately was not challenged by the Defendant.

No amount of compensation can replace what this family lost but in pursuing this claim Mrs P has ensured that she is able to keep her daughter’s memory alive.

A stillbirth is an unimaginable and devastating outcome of what should be the happiest of times.  If you have suffered an injury as a result of treatment given to you during your pregnancy or the delivery of your child, please contact us to discuss this further.

Ashleigh Holt – March 2018

Another excellent rating for the Firm – Band 1 in Chambers & Partners!

I am delighted to announce that following on from our Tier 1 rating in Legal 500 (see article 01/11/2017) we have been again awarded the highest rating (Band 1) for excellence in clinical negligence work in the Teesside area. This rating is given by a prestigious guide to UK Lawyers entitled “Chambers & Partners” where we are described as a “Specialist boutique with a superb reputation for handling complex clinical negligence claims”. These ratings are reviewed annually and based on interviews with our clients and barristers with whom we work and the feedback they give on our solicitors and the firm in general.

Our 3 partners were singled out for praise for their work, Hilton Armstrong is described as “very friendly, very approachable; he’s lovely to deal with”, Joanne Davies (neé Dennison) is “very reliable, very bright and always gives me the information I need” and Ashleigh Holt is praised for the way she handles a range of complex clinical negligence matters.

One client stated “They have made it very easy for me, and have taken a lot of stress away”. This alone makes us feel we are doing our job well as our priority is always our clients and ensuring that what can be a difficult experience is as stress free as possible. We are, however, equally proud when recognised for the hard work we do on our clients’ behalf and this ranking is a reflection of the dedication of the entire team from our admin staff to the Partners. If you would like any information on this please do not hesitate to contact us or read the review for yourself using the link below.

https://www.chambersandpartners.com/16346/140/editorial/1/1

Joanne Davies (neé Dennison) – March 2018