Tag Archives: North East

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

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

Not all claims are against GPs or Hospitals

When people think about “Medical Negligence” their minds typically jump to claims against the NHS or GP surgeries. While these types of claim are the most common they are not the only claims that we handle and we often bring claims against less obvious defendants. I’ve set out a few lesser known potential defendants below:

Care Homes/Nursing Homes – Other than hospitals and GPs practices claims against care homes or nursing homes are among the most common that we handle. When you or a loved one becomes a resident of a home like this the company and its staff have a duty to provide an adequate standard of care. If they fail to provide this standard of care, for example by failing to do enough to prevent the person from falling or developing pressure sores, a claim for negligence may arise.

The Ambulance Service – The ambulance service is often the first point of contact with the medical profession someone experiences after an accident or an emergency and the care they provide (or fail to provide) can have very serious consequences. Whilst the paramedics who were on the scene may have acted correctly, it can sometimes be the initial assessment by the ambulance dispatcher that was incorrect, resulting in a delay in attending which might have caused the injury to be worse or in some cases death.

Pharmacies – It is very important that the medication prescribed by doctors is provided correctly. A pharmacy providing incorrect medication, or an incorrect dose of the medication, can result in a claim for negligence if this failure causes you an injury.

Community Nursing – The care provided by community nurses in peoples own homes is another common source of medical negligence claims. Most typically these claims arise from a failure of the nurses to take action when wounds or pressure injuries develop.

Private Surgeons – People are often under the assumption that just because they paid privately for their treatment they are unable to bring a legal claim if this isn’t of an acceptable standard. This is completely incorrect and a private surgeon owes you the same duty to take reasonable care when treating you that an NHS doctor does.

While the above examples describe some of the more common claims we handle every medical negligence claim is different. If you believe that you may have been the victim of medical negligence, whoever provided this care, we can assist by providing free advice as to whether or not you might have a claim, don’t hesitate to call us on 01642 231110.

Dan Richardson – February 2018

Legal 500 Tier 1 ranking – We’ve done it again!!

Armstrong Foulkes has proudly retained its Tier 1 ranking in The Legal 500 2017 database of lawyers and solicitors in the UK.  No other firm specialising or working in clinical negligence in the Teesside area has been awarded this accolade and as specialists in this field we are elated that this has come just after celebrating the 25th anniversary of Armstrong Foulkes opening its doors in Middlesbrough.

After interviewing our clients and other legal professionals we work with Armstrong Foulkes LLP is described as having “an unrivalled and enviable reputation in the region of clinical negligence work.”  The three partners in the firm were acknowledged for their efforts in this field.  Joanne Davies is set apart with her “excellent understanding of medical issues and always gets outstanding results”.  Ashleigh Holt is described as “highly efficient” and Hilton Armstrong who leads the firm is “a clever, committed and passionate advocate who achieves excellent results in an unfussy manner”.

Joanne Davies said “We are proud and delighted that the firm has been recognised for the specialist service we provide in this type of claim and particularly pleased that the dedication of our solicitors on behalf of our clients has been both highlighted and praised.”

Ashleigh Holt – November 2017

Surgery abandoned due to a lack of beds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Richardson, October 2017

Fixing the amount of Costs in Clinical Negligence Claims

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

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

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

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

Joanne Davies – September 2017

Dan Richardson in the Red Bull Soapbox Race 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Richardson, August 2017

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

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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

Armstrong Foulkes raises money for local centre for the blind

We are pleased to announce that over the last year Armstrong Foulkes has raised over £950 for a local charity, Teesside and District Society for the Blind.  In addition to our “Trick or Treat Tombola” at Halloween and regular “dress down days” we’ve received significant contributions from staff, clients and friends of Armstrong Foulkes.  Centre Manager, Rona Ashton thanked us for our tremendous effort and explained “the money raised will be put towards our costs for providing social activities for the blind and partially sighted people living in the Teesside area.”

The charity was brought to our attention by one of our client’s who suffered sudden blindness as a result of negligent medical treatment.  In 2010 she developed a recurrence of a condition she had suffered 20 years previously, benign intracranial hypertension. This can cause damage to the optic nerves and consequently visual problems.  A simple lumbar puncture would have revealed this and surgery would have halted the progression of her condition but the diagnosis was missed for over 1 year by which time, surgery was too late and our client lost her sight in her mid 60s.

The Blind Centre made a huge difference to our client in that she was able to meet and socialise with people who were similarly affected.  She enjoys regular days out and even holidays with the centre.  She said in the early days it gave her a reason to get up in the morning.  If you are interested in learning more about the charity please look at their website at www.teessideblind.co.uk

Injuries which arise from negligent medical treatment can be devastating and life changing.  If you have suffered physically or psychologically as a result of poor medical treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ashleigh Holt – June 2017

Increase in the value of claims with future losses – An explanation for our clients

There are several elements to calculating the right level of compensation. It is usually made up of awards for:

  • Pain, suffering and loss of amenity

Your injuries and their effect on you

  • Financial expenses incurred.

Anything you have bought or paid for as a direct result of the negligence, for example prescription or medication charges, travel expenses and loss of earnings.

  • Future anticipated losses.

These are any losses you will likely suffer in future as a result of the negligence such as ongoing medication charges, regular private treatment, annual fees for something you require or ongoing loss of earnings. They can also be one off future losses or losses recurring every 10 years in the future.

To calculate the future losses there are set formulas that all lawyers use. For future losses you take the likely future expense and multiply it by a figure known as the “multiplier”.  All lawyers use actuarial tables known as the “Ogden Tables” to work out the “multiplier” as you cannot simply use the amount of years the loss is expected. There are many different types of tables and of future loss but if we look below in general terms at a recurring loss for a set period you will see how the situation has changed in March in favour of the person claiming compensation.

When compensation is paid at trial you would receive “in your hand” the future financial cost of the expense, therefore if you were to suffer, for example, an annual medication cost of £100 for the next 34 years the calculation should not be £100 x 34 years = £3,400. The reason for this is that if you were to get £3,400 now you could in theory invest this and end up with more than the loss would have been at the end of the 34 years. The purpose of compensation is to put you back to where you would have been had it not been for the accident/incident/negligence therefore having more than your loss at the end of 34 years would be considered a windfall and against this principle. For this reason the figure of 34 is discounted to allow for the fact you could invest it and it could grow.

As mentioned above these discounted figures are set out in the Ogden Tables used by solicitors to calculate the position correctly. From 2001 until 19th March 2017 all “years of loss”,for example, were discounted by 2.5% to provide the correct “multiplier” or figure to times the ongoing or future loss by.

From 20th March 2017 the figure to use to discount the future loss has changed. Now instead of discounting by 2.5% in the above 34 year example it will be discounted by -0.75%. This is an incredible change and significantly increases the total figure. 34 years annual loss in this situation which at 2.5% discount was 23.01 years totalled £2,301. This becomes 38.75 years at -0.75% discount totalling £3,875. This is more than the anticipated loss at £100 per year for 34 years. Any claim with future losses has now increased in value. In some claims the increase is dramatic by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Understandably this has not been popular with Defendants and we all accept that this is likely to alter again. The likelihood is that it will change to something which will still potentially mean a discount to the years claimed but one more likely to be balanced by investing the money and returning you to the position you would have been in, had the negligence never occurred.

This is a complicated issue but our solicitors always aim to explain in detail why and how they are claiming losses for you. If you think you may have a claim for compensation and in particular for future loss do not hesitate to call us and speak to one of our specialist clinical negligence solicitors on a free, no obligation, basis.

Joanne Dennison – March 2017

Failure to consider x-ray leads to unnecessary death

Shirley Wise was admitted to hospital in the early hours of a Tuesday morning with diarrhoea and vomiting.  Her treating doctors thought she was suffering from gastroenteritis but requested that an abdominal x-ray be performed to rule out anything more sinister.  The x-ray was performed at around 9:30 that morning but no doctor looked at it.  Unfortunately, because nobody looked at it, it was missed that Mrs Wise was not suffering from gastroenteritis but from gallstone ileus, a condition where a gallstone had eroded through her gall bladder into her bowel.  Had this been picked up, she would have had emergency surgery to remove the gallstone.  Instead, she deteriorated and died in the early hours of Thursday morning.

A claim was brought by her daughter, Tracey Georgeson.  The hospital admitted fault very quickly and settlement was reached soon after.  This included compensation for Mrs Wise’s unnecessary suffering before her death as well as for funeral expenses and other miscellaneous items.

Ms Georgeson has been very keen to make the public aware of what can happen when things go wrong in hospital.  We put her in touch with a journalist from the Evening Gazette who ran a story about this incident last September, which they then updated recently (please click on the links below if you would like to read the articles).

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/daughters-heartache-over-alleged-hospital-11858518

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/grans-hospital-death-could-been-12516562

If you suspect you or a family member has been injured as a result of medical negligence and would like some advice on whether there is a claim to pursue, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to talk to you about your complaint.

Kathryn Watson – February 2017

Chambers & Partners 2016 – Highest Band 1 ranking retained

We are proud to announce that Armstrong Foulkes LLP has retained its status as the only Band 1 recommended firm dealing with clinical negligence for injured patients in Middlesbrough and surrounds in the 2016 edition of Chambers and Partners which was published at the end of last year.  The ranking, which is the highest accolade awarded by Chambers and Partners assessed things which matter to our clients such as our technical legal ability, our professional conduct, our client service, our diligence and our commitment among other qualities most valued by clients.  Comments included:

“They specialise in clinical negligence work. They know what they are about and get good results for their clients.”

“They are very compassionate, the communication is excellent and they are extremely efficient and in-depth in their research.”

In addition, all three of our Partners – Hilton Armstrong, Joanne Dennison and Ashleigh Holt – were also ranked in the prestigious guide which identifies and ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers around the world.

Ashleigh Holt of Armstrong Foulkes LLP said “By achieving this ranking we feel very proud to be able to represent injured patients in the Tees Valley and surrounding areas and to continue to do our very best for them.”

Ashleigh Holt – January 2017

Come and join us for our Halloween Fundraising Day – 31 October 2016

On Monday 31 October 2016 we are holding a Halloween themed fundraising day in aid of our nominated charity for this year, Teesside & District Society for the Blind.  The staff will be dressed up and activities include a Trick or Treat Tombola and a Name the Witch’s Cat game.  There will also be a variety of cakes and sweets for sale.  Come and join in the fun!

halloween

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

What losses and expenses can we recover in your claim?

A question we are often asked is “what financial losses can I recover?” In English law compensation is broadly separated into General Damages (those relating to the pain, suffering and impact of the injury itself) and Special Damages (specific, identifiable expenses incurred as a result of the injury or which will be incurred in the future).

Putting a value on general damages is not an easy task; many factors need to be taken into account such as the duration of the injury, the degree of pain that you suffered and what impact this has had on your life. To guide our assessment of general damages we look to previous cases and consider the amounts awarded. As no two medical negligence cases are alike it is often not possible to find directly comparable cases and our assessment needs to take into account the unique facts of every specific case, identifying the key differences between cases and applying our experience to understand how this affects the value of the claim.

The other element to make up the compensation you are awarded is special damage, i.e. those financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of your injury. These could, amongst many other things, be a loss of earnings resulting from time taken off work, travelling expenses for hospital appointments which would not otherwise have been required, prescription charges and the cost of any equipment bought to assist you in adapting to your new situation. A claim can also be made for the time spend caring for you, even if this care was provided by a friend or family member who was not paid. Another common special damage we recover is the costs of future treatment, which can have a huge impact in terms of your recovery.

The special damages we seek to recover can vary greatly from case to case and depend on the specific needs and losses of the client. In the past, for example, we have been successful in recovering the costs of pain management courses to ensure our clients have the best possible support during their recovery. In cases where a client’s fertility has been affected we have also been able to recover the costs associated with IVF and surrogacy.

It is important to keep a record of any costs incurred (and ideally keep any receipts) as special damages can dramatically affect the potential value of a claim.

The years of specialist experience at Armstrong Foulkes ensure that we can always seek to recover the maximum compensation for you, supporting you as you recover from you injuries and ensuring you are not left out of pocket by the negligence of medical professionals.

Dan Richardson – July 2016

Care Home Neglect

Mr G suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. Although his family were initially able to manage him at home, in the middle of 2013 they made a difficult decision to move him into a care home on the basis that the Managers of the home were able to assure his family that as specialists in dementia care the home would be able to cope with his needs including occasionally challenging behaviour.

On admission Mr G was clean and well-presented but over the first few weeks and months he appeared progressively more and more dirty and dishevelled and his family began to have concerns regarding the care he was receiving, and particularly whether Mr G was being restrained and whether appropriate force was being used when this was necessary.

Despite previously having had little difficulty walking Mr G soon appeared to be struggling to walk. After speaking with the care home staff it became apparent that the care home’s chiropodist was refusing to treat him and the care home had failed to arrange an alternative. When the family took Mr G to see his old chiropodist it was noted that he was wearing socks 4 sizes too small, and they must not have been removed for some time as his skin appeared to have begun to grow through them.

In late 2013 Mr G’s family arranged for him to move to a different care home. By this time he was also doubly incontinent and had sores on his buttocks.  Thankfully the new placement provided the care and support that Mr G  needed and he went on to make a good recovery to the relief of his family.

We brought a claim against the operator of Mr G’s initial care home for failing to adequately care for Mr G. The care home quickly admitted that it had not been a suitable placement for Mr G in the first place, that the staff were not adequately trained and that the level of care provided  had been substandard. After negotiations Mr G’s claim was settled for £5,500, £2,000 of which was paid to his family to be used to meet his immediate needs. The remaining £2,500 was paid into Court to be used for Mr G’s benefit in the future.

Dan Richardson – June 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

Armstrong Foulkes raises over £1,000 for Middlesbrough MS charity

After handing over all of the money we raised in the last year to The Middlesbrough MS Therapy Centre I can confirm that Armstrong Foulkes raised a total of £1,142.37.  If you have been following our endeavours you will see that we got into the Wimbledon spirit by selling strawberries and cream, we had a Christmas Jumper day and we had a week of Easter related fund raising activities including a “name the bunny” game, a tombola and cake stall all of which were kindly organised and run by our staff.  The funds raised from these events have been topped up with further money raised throughout the year from dress down days and kind donations from our staff, clients and friends of Armstrong Foulkes.

Alan Riddiough, Centre Manager told us “It is increasingly more difficult to obtain large donations these days and your efforts are very much appreciated.  The Charity provides Oxygen Therapy, Physiotherapy, Reflexology, and various other treatments to M.S. sufferers at our Therapy Centre. All monies raised goes to help and support sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis.”

This year we asked our clients to help us again pick a local charity we can help and I am pleased to announce that this year Armstrong Foulkes will be supporting Teesside & District Society for the Blind, a small independent charity assisting over 2,000 local blind and partially sighted people in the Teesside and surrounding areas and we can’t wait to get started!

If you are interested in the work that either charity does or you would like to make a donation please visit the websites at www.middlesbroughtherapy.org and www.teessideblind.co.uk

Ashleigh Holt – May 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

Meet our newly qualified Assistant Solicitor

After almost 5 years of academic and practical legal training on 01/02/2016 I completed my training contract with Armstrong Foulkes LLP and qualified as a solicitor. As is apparent from our other news and views articles I certainly picked an interesting time to train as a medical negligence solicitor. During my training, changes have been made to the legal aid system, meaning that it is no longer available for the vast majority of medical negligence claims.  The more usual personal injury claims have also become less profitable, meaning that many law firms who have not traditionally undertaken this kind of work are now trying their hand at it.

During this time of change I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to train and qualify with a specialist firm who exclusively undertake medical negligence work. This has allowed me to focus almost entirely on this complex area of law and while no two claims are alike I have gained experience of a huge variety of medical negligence cases, from substandard dental work to delayed cancer diagnoses, neglect in care homes, the provision of unnecessary or incorrect medication and even surgical fires.

The firm’s dedication to excellence in legal practice and client care, as recognised by our recent Lexcel accreditation, has provided the best possible environment for me to learn and develop as a solicitor. Now that I have finally qualified I look forward to continuing to use my knowledge and training in this specialised area of law to continue Armstrong Foulkes’ track record of excellence in   helping the people of Teesside obtain redress when their medical care goes wrong.

Dan Richardson – February 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

Personal Injury Small Claims limit set to rise

In his Autumn statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer revealed plans to increase the personal injury small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000.  In short, this means that if you have suffered personal injuries which are not valued at more than £5,000 you will recover only limited legal costs and so if you want to pursue a claim you will probably need to do so without legal representation via the small claims court

The main driving force for this is to control whiplash claims and thereby reduce the insurance premiums paid by motorists (we’ll see about that!).  It is not clear if this will be applied across the board and encompass medical negligence claims and if the driving force is to control motoring insurance premiums for public companies then we strongly disagree that it should however if it does it will be another kick in the teeth for victims injured through the negligent acts or omissions of those they have put the utmost trust in.

For example, someone who suffers a seemingly straightforward collapsed lung through the negligent placement of a needle would struggle to bring a claim as on the face of it the injuries they had suffered would appear minor and probably not worth compensation of £5,000 and therefore the injured patient would not be able to afford the legal representation they require.  If they go it alone, how would they prove that the needle had been inserted negligently?  How do they prove what the ill effects of that negligent treatment are and how can they be sure that they are not at risk of future complications?

The onus is on the Claimant to prove their case and without having access to expert legal representation genuinely injured patients are at risk of being unable to pursue a claim.  Not everyone has the ability to do this on their own or for themselves – I’m sure that many of us could try and swot up on how to fit a new bathroom or plumb in a toilet and yet plumbing is a thriving business because most of us want to make sure the job is done properly and so we approach an expert to do the job for us.  There really isn’t any difference.

At Armstrong Foulkes we consider all types of medical negligence claims.  We have helped many injured patients over the years who have suffered low value injuries however the ability to get justice or an acknowledgement of what happened is usually priceless.

There is no set date by which the limit will rise but if you are concerned about medical treatment you have received which you believe has caused or worsened an injury please get in touch.

Ashleigh Holt – January 2016

LEGAL 500 AND CHAMBERS & PARTNERS RECOMMENDATIONS

I am once again pleased and proud to say that the firm and its solicitors have once again been ranked in and recommended by both legal directories.  We always try to provide the best service to our clients for Clinical Negligence claims and it is nice to be recognised as the specialists in this field in the Middlesbrough and Tees area.

Chambers & Partners

The “Chambers & Partners” Guide to the best lawyers in the UK is released annually. We have been included in recent years and recommended as a Top Ranked and Leading Firm in Clinical Negligence work in the North East. Again, you may have seen this logo on the home page of our website.

We are delighted to share with you news that we have been included once again in the “Chambers & Partners 2015” hardback and online directory. The firm is recognised as a Band 1 firm (top ranked) in the North East Clinical Negligence Section and the only Band 1 (top ranked) firm to be recommended for this type of law in Middlesbrough & the surrounding areas. We were also pleased to see that all of our partners, Hilton Armstrong, Joanne Dennison and Ashleigh Holt received personal recommendations for their service to clients.

The feedback included in the guide from our clients and barristers with whom we have worked is:

“Fantastic people who have a reputation for winning their cases.”

“A truly specialist firm.”

If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact us or to view the recommendation on the link below:

http://www.chambersandpartners.com/uk/firm/162233/armstrong-foulkes#LightboxEditorial

 

Legal 500

The “Legal 500” is an independent guide to legal firms and individuals, who are included in the online and hardback directory only if they are recommended for their work in their particular area of law. Each Legal 500 guide released every year is separated into not only areas of law but also into geographical areas. We have been privileged to be included as a leading clinical negligence firm in our area for many years and you may have noticed the “Legal 500 – Leading Firm” logo on our home page confirming this.

We are delighted to announce we have once again been included in the 2015 Legal 500 Guide we are listed as one of only 3 “Top Tier” Clinical Negligence firms in the North of England. We are described as ‘genuinely specialist medical negligence firm’ and ‘highly efficient in its conduct of cases’ – See more at: http://www.legal500.com/c/north/insurance/clinical-negligence-claimant#paragraph_17714

We are proud to be the only clinical negligence firm from Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas to be included in this guide. We were also delighted to see all three of our Partners once again recommended personally for their work.

We continue to strive to offer our clients an excellent service and it is always reassuring when this is recognised both by the barristers and other professionals we work with and more importantly as a result of feedback given by our own clients. If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact us or to click on the link below:

http://www.legal500.com/c/north/insurance/clinical-negligence-claimant#paragraph_17714)

 

Joanne Dennison (Once again Proud Editor!) – December 2015

58 GP appointments with a persistent infection and yet no referral to hospital

In December 2011, Mrs N developed a severe pain in her stomach for which she was admitted to hospital. It was thought she was suffering from appendicitis but during keyhole surgery no cause for her pain was found and she was later discharged home.

Unfortunately, she subsequently developed an infection around her tummy button as a result of a suture that had been used during the surgery. This is not considered negligent and is known as a recognised complication of any surgery, all that is needed is removal of the suture by the surgical team at the hospital. However, despite going to see her GP on 58 occasions about the infection over a 20 month period, he failed to refer her back to hospital for this treatment. The infection only resolved after Mrs N managed to remove the suture herself using a mirror and a pair of tweezers.

We brought a claim against her GP for failing to refer her back to hospital earlier with an ongoing infection around her tummy button. His medical defence organisation acting on his behalf accepted this failure to refer her had been substandard and the claim was settled for a four figure sum.

If you suspect you have been injured as a result of medical negligence and would like some advice on whether there is a claim to pursue, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – December 2015

Hips and Knees

Did you know:

  • 40% of all medical negligence claims against the NHS are orthopaedic claims.
  • Fingers / wrists / arms / shoulders / ankles / knees / hips etc.
  • 17% of all orthopaedic claims relate to Hip and Knee Replacements
  • 10% = Hip Replacements

Ø  7% = Knee Replacements

** McWilliams et al. JBJS 2013

The impact orthopaedic claims have on those unfortunate enough to suffer them affects every aspect of their daily lives. Our client’s complain of a severe limit on their mobility (even just getting around the home), their inability to work and they often require assistance from carers or loved one’s just to be able to cope.

A number of issues can arise in Hip and Knee Replacements:

  • Nerve Injury
  • Infection
  • Vascular Injury
  • Dislocation
  • VTE – Venous Thromboembolism / blood clots
  • Leg Length discrepancy
  • Malalignment

It is important to remember that not every complication will give rise to a claim in negligence. Every surgical procedure carries “acceptable complications” which should be discussed with you by the Surgeon at the time of providing your Consent to the procedure.

However, not all complications are “acceptable” and unfortunately sometimes the surgery has been performed to an unacceptable standard and this causes an injury.

We here at Armstrong Foulkes have extensive experience of orthopaedic claims and we can help you find out if you have received substandard care and if you have grounds to bring a claim.

If you think you have suffered such an injury please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our solicitors would be happy to discuss it with you.

Andrew Walker – November 2015

A blog from Armstrong Foulkes’ Resident Equestrienne

The majority of my time outside of work is taken up by horses and I compete regularly in eventing. Whilst I only have the time to compete 2 or 3 as it takes a lot of training and fitness work to make sure a horse is ready to compete, I have several others. These include horses who have since retired or ones that are too young to compete.

Whilst we do on occasion buy horses, we tend to breed our own and are now breeding the second generation of horses. My old eventer Molly (who we bred 14 years ago) now has a 3 year old gelding (boy) and a filly foal (girl).

foal

I am often asked what eventing entails. The competition is made up of 3 phases which are designed to test the horse and rider in different ways. The scores from each phase are combined to produce an overall total. Eventing is one of the very few sports where professionals and amateurs compete against one another as do men and women as there is no distinction between gender.

The 3 phases are:

Dressage

This is where the horse and rider have to perform a series of predetermined movements to show the horse’s obedience, suppleness, balance and harmony with the rider and judges score each movement from 1 to 10. It can often be difficult to get a very fit horse to perform a relaxed and precise test. I must admit this is my least favourite of the 3 disciplines and yet the one I have to spend most of my time doing.

Show Jumping

This involves one round of jumping over coloured poles that can be knocked down with a maximum time allowed. The aim is to jump a clear round inside the time. There are penalties for knocking a pole down, stopping at a fence or exceeding the time allowed.

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 Cross Country

This is a course over several kilometres across the country of very solidly built fences and includes logs, stone walls, ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks and fences in combination. As well as big solid fences, there are a number of obstacles which test the accuracy and training of the horse and rider such as narrow or angled fences and corners. Both horse and rider need to be fit as this is a test of endurance as well as testing the courage, speed, athleticism and trust in one another as whilst there have been a lot of measures taken to improve safety, this is still the phase where horse and/or rider are most likely to be injured. This is by far my favourite phase as it involves jumping and going fast which really gets the adrenaline up.

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I am now at the end of the eventing season. The winter will involve less intensive training but will be used as a solid foundation for the season next year starting in March. I will also use the added time winter brings to bring on my young horses who will start competing next year.

Kathryn Watson – October 2015

 

Red Bull Soapbox Race

Huge congratulations to our Trainee Solicitor, Dan Richardson, who along with his teammates “The Winterfellas” competed in the Red Bull Soapbox Race on 15th July at Alexandra Palace, London. Out of many applicants they were chosen alongside 64 others to try their luck at the infamous course, thought to be one of the fastest used by Red Bull in their Soapbox Races worldwide. Their “Game of Thrones” inspired soapbox was a labour of love, made from scratch by the team. The footage of their amazing run can be seen on the link below and unlike many of the competitors they managed to complete the course strewn with obstacles intended to cause a lesser team to crash! Although they did not make it to the podium this time, their hard work paid off and they came an impressive 13th out of 65 competitors! We’re all very proud of his achievement!

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Red Bull footage is at the bottom of the main page at http://www.redbullsoapboxrace.com/uk/en/

Footage from the head camera is on the team page at http://www.redbullsoapboxrace.com/uk/en/team/the-winterfellas-wagon/