Tag Archives: Hilton Armstrong

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

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

Bereavement Damages – a long overdue change on its way?

There is a fixed amount of money that is awarded to certain close relatives when someone dies in an accident.  It applies to medical claims and other accidents when someone else is proved to be at fault.  The sum is fixed by Parliament and is currently £12,980 and is called a ‘bereavement award’.  It is Parliament’s financial assessment of the amount of money needed to compensate you for your grief and suffering from losing a loved one.

However, injustices have arisen (not only because the amount is small) but also because the people who are entitled to claim is limited by Parliament in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.  Surviving spouses (or civil partners) and the parents of children under 18 years of age are the only two groups who are eligible.  If you are cohabitees or a parent of a child over the age of 18 you are not entitled.  As about 17% of couples now living together are either not married or in a civil partnership it affects a lot of people.

Some of this injustice may be remedied shortly.  A recent Court of Appeal case (Smith –v- Lancashire Teaching Hospitals) has declared that to exclude cohabitees is not compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.  What does this mean?  Sadly nothing for Miss Smith but there is now a hope that Parliament will look again at its definition of who can claim and extend it to cohabitees.  However, with all things Brexit preoccupying the Government I am not hopeful this will be sorted any time soon.

Hilton Armstrong – December 2017

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!

cake

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

Will the General Election result affect your claim?

The answer to this question is “No”.  You may think this is an irrelevant question and therefore pointless answer, but there is more to it than first seems.  I shall explain.

Before the General Election the Government had made it clear that it was their intention to reduce the bill to the NHS arising out of clinical negligence claims.  Not only did they want to reduce the legal fees but they hoped this would also cause a reduction in the number of valid claims.  They were seeking to reduce an injured person’s access to justice by making it harder to pursue a claim.

This isn’t fair.  So we like many other firms and charities campaigned against it.  I wrote to three of our local MP’s setting out in some detail the effect of these changes on their constituents, inviting them to share their own views and asking which way they intended to vote.  Only one replied.  I wrote to the two major parties candidates in my own constituency, neither replied.  It’s pretty clear to me that this issue is not all that important to them.  It’s not a vote winner, which means the party in charge will usually get its own way.

The significance of the hung Parliament we now have is that changing the current system of compensating victims of medical negligence and making it harder to bring a claim may not be so high up on their list of priorities – they have bigger fish to fry.

This is good news for all those unfortunate enough to have been injured.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2017

Wrongful removal of a testicle

Kevin was in his mid fifties, single, and had a small benign cyst on his left testicle.  He had put up with it for a number of years.  Eventually he was advised that he should have it (the cyst!) removed.  Tests had confirmed that there was no cancer.  He received assurances that this was all that was to happen.  He went to hospital for what he expected to be a normal procedure for removal of this benign cyst.

After the operation the Consultant was doing his ward round with the trainees.  He announced to his colleague and Kevin that everything had gone to plan but to be safe he had removed the testicle, not just the cyst.  At first Kevin thought he hadn’t heard him correctly.  To say Kevin was angry was an understatement – he was absolutely furious.  Loss of his testicle was something he had wanted to avoid, and assured would not happen.

He came to see us about a claim.  The claim was pursued on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.  Within 8 months and shortly after starting court proceedings we secured a settlement of £15,000 plus payment of legal costs.  In monetary terms this the going rate for a loss of a testicle case as there were no complications or future concerns.

Hilton Armstrong – June 2017

Why choose a specialist?

If you are looking for a Solicitor to handle your medical claim, then you will probably do the following:

  1. Search the internet.
  2. See an advert in your local paper or on TV.
  3. Listen to a friend, relation or colleague.
  4. Contact your family Solicitor.

Nowadays, lots of Solicitors are doing Clinical Negligence work but that does not mean they are specialists.  They are turning their hand to it because they are short of work.  Their adverts are very good and they will promise you the world: e.g. “we expect to settle your claim within 6 to 12 months” or “we have successfully recovered compensation for thousands of injured people” and so on.  This is all rubbish.

So, why should you go to a specialist like us?  There is only one reason:

Would you be happy if a Neurosurgeon was going to remove your appendix, or if an Orthopaedic Surgeon operated on your brain?  Both are very competent in their own field but you would be a fool to trust them if they strayed out of their area of expertise – so why do it with your medical claim?

We only deal with medical claims for injured people on Teesside and in the North East.  We have years of experience which enable us to get you the best result for you, both in terms of compensation and answers.

We have national recognition and are listed in Chambers and The Legal 500:

Ring us today at 01642 231110 and we will tell you if you have a claim worth pursuing.  You will speak to an experienced Solicitor who will give you straightforward answers.

Hilton Armstrong – February 2017

The only Teesside firm top ranked for Clinical Negligence by Legal 500

We are the only firm in Teesside to be ranked Tier 1 for Clinical Negligence work by the prestigious Legal 500 Guide to the UK Legal Profession.  The guide, one of the leading independent guides to the profession, notes that

“Armstrong Foulkes LLP’s well-regarded boutique practice is led by ‘honest and straightforward’ managing partner Hilton Armstrong, whose recent cases include a catastrophic brain injury resulting from oxygen starvation at birth. Kathryn Watson and Ashleigh Holt are also recommended”

There are only three other firms in the whole of the North East of England, Yorkshire and Humberside who also have a Tier 1 listing and they are based in Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.

See more at:  http://www.legal500.com/c/north/insurance/clinical-negligence-claimant

Hilton Armstrong – October 2016

Claimants Travel Expenses

Can a Claimant recover his expenses for attending a medical expert or visiting his lawyer?

If the other side ask you to attend for a medical examination by their own doctor then you will be able to recover your travel and other expenses (lost earnings, food etc.) from them. They should pay these within 28 days of the examination.

  • If you have to see a doctor for a report that your own Solicitor needs then the position is more complicated. It is usual for your Solicitor to reimburse your expenses in attending if you can give him the receipts. Sometimes if the expenses are high, for example you have to travel to London then he may give you some money beforehand if you cannot afford to pay yourself. The difficulty arises when you try to claim these expenses from the other side if you win your case.   The Defendants regularly object to paying them.
  • The way forward in this scenario is for your Solicitor to claim these expenses in your case against the Defendant. However, this means that there has to be a deduction from your compensation to reimburse the Solicitor for what he has paid to you. If that didn’t happen you would be paid twice, once by the Solicitor and once by the other side in your compensation.
  • You cannot claim your expenses in going to see your Solicitor. This is because those costs are considered to be the normal costs of being a litigant and therefore not recoverable.

Hilton Armstrong – June 2016

Delay in Diagnosing Gall Bladder Cancer

This is another sad case where an avoidable error started a chain of events that led to a tragic conclusion.

Simon was 56 years of age when he had his gall bladder removed.  As is usual, this was then sent to the Pathology labs to check if there was any evidence of cancer.  He returned to see the Consultant a few weeks later and was told that the operation had been a success; he had been given the ‘all clear’ and so could return to work.  Unfortunately, as later transpired the Consultant had read the pathology report wrongly – he should have told Simon that there was evidence of cancer in the removed organ and immediately referred him to a specialist for extensive surgery.

Two months before his death Simon suffered severe abdominal pains and investigations were undertaken.  However, it wasn’t until a month before his death that the full details of the Pathologists report were realised.  By that time Simon was very poorly and his condition was inoperable.  He died 7 months after being given the ‘all clear’.

The hospital could not avoid admitting that the Pathologists report had been “incorrectly interpreted” by the Consultant.  However, they defended the claim on the basis that even if they had acted immediately it would have been too late to operate – they were saying Simon would have died anyway.  This was most distressing to the family.

Luckily the Surgeon we retained for the claim was a national expert on gall bladder cancer and could say with real authority that had Simon been operated on he would have survived with a normal life expectancy.  The claim settled a few days before the trial was due to start.

Hilton Armstrong – March 2016

Armstrong Foulkes LLP secures top accolade from national Law Society

We have recently secured the national Law Society’s legal practice quality mark, Lexcel.

Lexcel is developed specifically for the legal profession.  It is an optional, recognised accreditation scheme for law firms and in-house legal departments which gives assurance that a practice meets high client care and business management.

To gain and retain Lexcel accreditation, practices must undergo a rigorous initial then annual application and assessment process.  This includes conducting background checks and an on-site visit from an independent experienced trained Lexcel assessor.

While we are proud to have secured Lexcel, it is our clients and staff who are the main beneficiaries.  They can be assured that the way we manage the practice has their interests at heart and runs efficiently.  There is a lot of choice in the legal services market, but being Lexcel accredited demonstrates our commitment to client care and best practice.

Jonathan Smithers, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Gaining and maintaining Lexcel is a considerable feat.  There are many facets of being a Lexcel accredited law firm, including excellence in client care.  A real commitment to customer service in today’s evermore competitive legal services market is vital.”

“By undergoing the rigorous Lexcel application and assessment process, practices can show the positive steps which they are taking to help clients in the increasingly diverse and complicated legal services market.”

“The scheme is a beacon of quality to clients and potential clients alike.”

We join more than 1700 other legal practices in England and Wales with Lexcel accreditation.  The practice management accolade has also gone international, with firms in Scotland, the Middle East, Poland and the Republic of Ireland having gained accreditation.

Hilton Armstrong – 21 January 2016

Shortlisted for Northern Law Awards!

“Celebrating the great wealth of legal talent and success within the region, the Northern Law Awards is the law event for all those practising and working in the legal industry in the North of England” http://www.lawawards.co.uk/event/

We were delighted to be shortlisted in two categories; Small Firm of the Year and Personal Injury/Clinical Negligence Department of the Year. This is the first year this has happened. The competition is fierce with the shortlists containing all the top players.

We gave it our best shot in the presentations to the Judges and await the results…

Hilton Armstrong – June 2015

NHS reports an 18% increase in claims made

So why is there such an increase? It is probably a combination of three factors:

1.     Since the dismantling of the Legal Aid scheme and introduction of ‘no win no fee’ agreements more people can afford to employ a lawyer to investigate a medical mishap.

2.     There was a rush of claims just before April 2013 when a change to the rules meant that the NHS no longer had to pay a success fee if the claim was successful. If clients were signed up after then, the success fee came out of their compensation.

3.     There are many new entrants to the market (Solicitors with little experience of these claims) who are taking on cases and lodging claims that have not been properly investigated.

There was always going to be a blip for reasons ‘1’ and ‘2’ above. That will work its way through. However, the increase attributable to the new entrants is very unpredictable. They have entered the market because the Government has reduced their fee income from Road Traffic Accident work. They see medical claims as a way of replacing their lost income and keeping their paralegals employed.

We have been doing this type of work in the Teesside County Durham and North Yorkshire region for over 20 years and we have not seen the standard of medical practice drop dramatically over this period. Generally the level is good. Mistakes will always happen – it is human error, and no amount of form filling, privatisation or retraining will eradicate these lapses.

It’s the new entrants that everybody should be worried about:

  • The injured patient; because they have put their case in the hands of a non-specialist
  • The NHS; because they have to investigate claims that have not been properly risk assessed.
  • The specialist medical lawyers; because the new entrants are giving us a bad name.

Hilton Armstrong – January 2015

Cleveland Short Course Triathlon June 2014

1500m open water swim, 40k bike ride and a 9k cross country run…

Competing in the 50-60 year old category I came 8th out of 21, which is better than I expected. The water was quite cold and I seem to be a bit disorientated judging by this picture! Out of 130 entrants I was 49th out of the water, 43rd fastest on the bike, but lost it on the run (as usual) finishing 86th. Overall I was 59th which I was pleased about. It was 10 minutes faster than the time I did two years ago.

For Christmas I want a time trial bike and a new pair of running legs!

Hilton Armstrong

cleveland triathlon 2014

 

Injection injury denies student dream career

This was a nerve injury case which went to trial. The Claimant was awarded £94,386 which was made up of PSLA (£16,000), past loss of earnings (£32,500), future loss of earnings (£40,000), miscellaneous (£675) and interest of £5,211.

Peter was 17 and studying for his ‘A’ levels when he had a sudden onset of stomach pain. His mother took him to an out-of-hours GP surgery where a diagnosis of suspected appendicitis was made. Peter was in pain so the GP gave him a pain relieving injection into his left thigh. He was then taken to hospital and had surgery to remove his appendix.

When he recovered from his surgery he discovered that he had numbness in his left leg just below the knee and into the foot – a “drop foot” injury. This usually occurs when there is some damage to the peroneal nerve which runs all the way down the leg. The only time when this could have happened was when the GP gave him the pain killing injection into his thigh.

He and his mother were not going to do anything about this until they were advised by the Neurologist at hospital that they should go see a Solicitor. In cross-examination the Neurologist denied this.

Peter brought a claim against the GP who gave him the injection, alleging that the needle was inserted into the incorrect area, namely into the peroneal nerve, and this caused his disability. The case was defended throughout and went for a 5 day trial in Middlesbrough County Court with 2 experts on each side. Only £16,000 of the sum he was awarded was for pain and suffering for the injury, the rest was for past and future loss of earnings. Peter had hoped to go into a career with the Forestry Commission but that was not possible as he was now unable to move effectively on uneven ground.

Hilton Armstrong – June 2014