Medical Negligence Review

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1 Medical Negligence Review A review of some of our successful cases in 2009 Award of 390,000 for untreated eye infection that left pensioner blind in this issue: 02 Introduction Robert Sowerby Robert Sowerby was rendered blind as a result of an eye infection which was not recognised or treated. Paul McNeil successfully pursued a case against the hospital that treated him, when other solicitors had advised that there was no case. Sixty five year old Robert Sowerby became unwell over Christmas in He was prescribed antibiotics by his GP. When his vision deteriorated, he attended Northampton General Hospital s accident and emergency department late on 27 December. He reported he was seeing black spots in both eyes and was suffering rigors and other signs of an infection. He saw the duty ophthalmologist who initially thought that he had a bacterial infection or a recurrence of cancer. She telephoned the ophthalmic consultant, who advised over the phone. This was against the hospital s own protocols. Continued on page Anaesthetics Cancer Cancer Cardiac surgery General medicine General practice Hospital infection Obstetrics 14 Ophthalmology Orthopaedic surgery Plastic Surgery Psychiatric care What others say about us Contacts Experts in medical negligence claims

2 Introduction Welcome to the edition of our Medical Negligence Review At Field Fisher Waterhouse we try to understand the difficulties which face clients who have been injured as a result of medical negligence. Our philosophy is to give our clients the confidence that we will do everything to uncover acts of negligence, and to obtain the highest award possible as quickly as proper investigation allows. I believe that our mission statement encapsulates this philosophy : Caring for our clients, Commitment to our cases, Cutting edge expertise. This review is intended to give timely insight into the work that we do so that you can see what can be achieved. Our clients are everyday people who have suffered serious injuries, through no fault of their own, often in circumstances that are difficult to understand. Many are motivated by the need to fund rehabilitation and care. Some wish to recover lost earnings or to compensate for a loved one s financial support. Others simply want an explanation so as to warn clinicians and avoid mistakes happening again. In 2009 we recovered more than 30 million for clients. This is because our lawyers are renowned for their expertise, their commitment and the care that they take. They are also compassionate and work extremely hard. You will see from the cases in this issue that our clients encounter many different circumstances over many areas of clinical practice. We cater for them all. In so far as is possible, we pursue claims very quickly and without fuss. This allows our clients to rebuild their lives with minimal disruption, and with empathy and support from us. We also make significant efforts to ensure that we obtain interim compensation, on account, during the case. This can provide for rehabilitation, care, support, therapies (such as physiotherapy) and appropriate accommodation. Many of our clients rely on the funds we obtain to replace lost income. You only have to read the quotes from our clients and from the independent legal directories to know that we have a strong reputation. This coupled with rigour and dedication, enables us to win the best settlements - the very least our clients deserve. In virtually all of our cases this is done at no cost to our clients. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the experts and barristers whom we instruct. Without their brilliance, support and hard work our successes would not be possible. Please take the time to read on and find out what we can achieve for you and your contacts. If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to call me on or me at Alternatively, please visit our website, which has recently been relaunched, at I hope you find this newsletter useful. Paul McNeil Any questions or queries? us: Or call us on freephone

3 Anaesthetics 300,000 for family following anaesthetist s blunder at world class hospital Ron had heart bypass surgery at the world-renowned Harefield Hospital, Middlesex, in November During the surgery the anaesthetist turned off his ventilator for almost 15 minutes by mistake. It was supposed to be off for only 2 minutes. As a result Ron s brain was deprived of oxygen and, sadly, he lapsed into a coma. After 11 months in a coma, Ron died in October Richard Earle was instructed to pursue a case against the hospital, who quickly admitted that its anaesthetist had caused Ron s brain damage. A dependency claim was put forward for Ron s son who struggled to cope without his father s help at home. In addition, a novel claim utilising the Human Rights Act was included on the basis of Ron s loss of right to life. The case was settled for 300,000 and was funded by legal aid. Richard Earle said: I m absolutely delighted that it was possible to secure a substantial settlement for such a deserving family after their father died in such sad and avoidable circumstances. Cancer Filing error delays diagnosis of breast cancer for 12 months In April 2004, 48 year old Janet went to her doctor as she had lumps in her right breast. She was referred to the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, where a scan and ultrasound of the breast were carried out. Janet was told that the lumps were benign. However, it later emerged that the clinician who carried out the ultrasound had advised that the lumps required further investigation. This recommendation was not seen by the breast cancer specialist who saw Janet because it was mistakenly filed in her notes. Later the same year, Janet returned to her GP with pain and increased lump size. She was once more referred to the Kent and Sussex Hospital. This time she had a mammogram and a biopsy, which sadly indicated that the lesions in her breast were cancerous. As a result, Janet underwent a mastectomy and 6 months chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy. Paul McNeil was instructed by Janet and he alleged that there was an unnecessary delay in diagnosing breast cancer. He also alleged that the hospital wrongly advised Janet that her lumps were benign. The defendant admitted liability and paid Janet 54,000 damages, which included the cost of her treatment on a private basis. The case was funded on a no win, no fee basis. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 3

4 Cancer 400,000 for 71-year old when hospital fails to diagnose bone cancer Joan was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow, but only after she repeatedly sought help. She was not given appropriate treatment because her complaint was not taken seriously. In 2002, Joan, who was then 71 years old, visited her GP on a number of occasions with upper back pain. Her GP carried out some tests which showed abnormal readings, but he failed to institute any investigations into the cause. Her condition worsened and further tests were carried out in 2003, again which showed abnormal results. Despite this, the GP still failed to refer her for further assessments. It was not until Joan lost the function of her left arm and experienced paraesthesia (more commonly known as pins and needles) in her lower limbs that her GP referred her for a non-urgent MRI scan. In effect she was put on a waiting list. In the meantime, Joan continued to deteriorate. She was having falls and her husband was unable to cope with her at home. She referred herself to Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, where a junior doctor failed to ask for a senior review or request an urgent MRI. Four days after admission, Joan was eventually seen by senior staff at the hospital. She was transferred to St Bartholomews Hospital in London, where she was finally diagnosed with myeloma. She immediately underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. She was initially left doubly incontinent and without the use of her legs. Mark Bowman was instructed on behalf of Joan. The defendants, Joan s GP and Whipps Cross Hospital, initially denied liability. However, just before expert medical evidence was due to be exchanged, both defendants finally admitted liability and judgment was entered for the claimant. Joan received 400,000 compensation after the claim settled just two weeks before trial. The compensation covers all of the expenses that Joan incurred to date, as well as the recommendations for future care. The case was funded on a no win, no fee basis. In accepting the award, Joan said: Mark was sensitive to our need to keep an emotional distance from the claim handling. I felt we could be hands off because I was completely confident that instructions were being followed and we were not at risk in costs.

5 Cardiac surgery Heart surgery goes wrong resulting in coma Stephen was left in a persistent vegetative state following a procedure at St Mary s Hospital, London, in He underwent surgery to remove a blockage in his anterior descending coronary artery, which had caused Stephen to suffer a minor heart attack in November that year. The procedure involved inserting an angioplasty balloon through a puncture site in the right femoral artery. The surgery initially seemed to have been successful. However, our client began haemorrhaging at the puncture site which caused him to lose a lot of blood into his abdominal cavity. The resultant hypotension caused Stephen to suffer a heart attack and irreversible brain damage. This left him in a coma and unable to communicate. Stephen s life expectancy was drastically reduced. Our experts assessed the case and advised that, with competent care the bleeding from the puncture site should have been recognised and stopped immediately after the surgery. This would have prevented the heart attack and brain damage. Our experts also stated that following appropriate treatment, which would have included blood and fluid replacement, Stephen should have undergone further surgery urgently to repair the puncture in his femoral artery. As Stephen was unable to conduct the litigation himself, we acted through his daughter, Molly. She instructed Mark Bowman, who was able to settle the case, with court approval, for 750,000 in December The case was funded on a no win, no fee basis. Stephen s daughter said: Mark, you have worked incredibly hard for my father and you have made this terrible ordeal more bearable for me, my sister and my aunt. I cannot thank you enough. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 5

6 General medicine Father dies from chicken pox following a string of hospital failures Paul McNeil won a substantial sum of compensation for the widow of a 38 year old man who died from chicken pox related pneumonia after doctors repeatedly failed to diagnose and treat his condition. The man died in hospital in November 2005 from a complication of chicken pox virus. He had to wait 55 hours to get a diagnosis and a further 12 hours to receive the medication that would have prevented his death. Dominic, who was married with a young son, developed a rash and a high temperature in November 2005 at home. He was not diagnosed with chicken pox (or any illness) by two GPs, NHS Direct and a number of junior doctors from James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough where he was eventually admitted on a Saturday morning. All of them failed to recognise the classic symptoms of chicken pox. Eventually, on the Monday morning, he was seen by a dermatologist. This was two days after his admission to the hospital and approximately 5 days after the rash developed. The dermatologist immediately diagnosed chicken pox. Delays by the nurses and pharmacy meant that Dominic was not given the necessary medication (acyclovir) for a further 12 hours. Sadly, he went on to develop chicken pox related pneumonia and died five days after his admission to hospital. Dominic s widow instructed Paul McNeil to represent her in a claim against the James Cook Hospital. She had been unable to find any solicitors in the North East to take her case on a no win, no fee basis. The claim settled just before going to Trial, with the hospital agreeing to pay a substantial sum in compensation to her and her son. Paul McNeil comments: The failure of doctors in the community and in hospital to make a diagnosis led to serious delays in giving Dominic the medication that would have halted the spread of the chicken pox virus and ultimately prevented his death. This settlement will not make up for the family s loss but will help secure the financial position for Dominic s widow and son. After the case, Dominic s wife said: I would whole-heartedly recommend Paul McNeil to anyone seeking to prove a medical negligence claim. He worked extremely conscientiously on my behalf and continually reassured me, despite the whole process being very long and involved (nearly 3 years, with a mountain of paperwork), despite the obvious distress of going over and over traumatic events, and despite my persistent worries about the ongoing costs involved. I believe that Paul and our Barrister, Henry Witcomb, secured the best possible settlement for my case and I am very glad I trusted their confidence.

7 General Practice Two week old baby dies due to GP s mistake Baby Liam was born in November 2004, healthy and in good condition. Two weeks later he became unwell and vomited what appeared to be blood on his clothes. Liam s parents took him (and the soiled clothing) to an out of hours GP just before 8pm. They told the GP that Liam was refusing his food, was pale, his temperature was low and that he vomited what appeared to be blood. The GP tried to reassure Liam s parents and sent them home. He recorded in the notes (in contradiction to the parent s history) that Liam had taken a feed and was alert with good colour and tone. At about 10pm Liam s lips turned blue. His parents rushed him to the hospital. On the way Liam stopped breathing. Neither his parents nor the doctors at the hospital were able to resuscitate him. A post-mortem revealed that Liam s death was caused by volvulus, a twisting of the bowel, which can be common in young babies. Samantha Critchley arranged representation for the family at the Inquest in November The Coroner recorded a verdict of natural causes but ruled that the better course of action would have been for the GP to refer Liam to hospital. This may have allowed time for Liam to undergo life-saving treatment. After the Inquest Samantha Critchley was instructed by Liam s parents to take a claim against the GP for negligence. Our expert evidence stated that if Liam been referred to the paediatric unit in the hospital, he would have been admitted and given IV fluids and antibiotics. A diagnosis of small bowel obstruction would have been made and surgery would have been performed to resolve it. Our case was that with proper care Liam would have survived. We put forward a claim for Liam s pain and suffering and for his parents bereavement, psychological injuries and loss. The claim was settled for 92,500 in October The case was funded on a no win, no fee basis. Liam s parent s said: At every stage during the long process we felt confident that Samantha was giving us the correct advice and selecting the best experts to assist her with our case. Without Samantha s help we know that our son s voice would not of been heard as well. she treated us with the perfect mix of compassion and professionalism. Sam made what was obviously a very difficult process for us as easy as it could be. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 7

8 Hospital infection 1 million plus annual payments for drip site infection Ros was 49 years old and working as a missionary in Africa. She had travelled to the UK for a wedding. During the festivities she developed a fever and headaches. She went to the infectious diseases unit of Churchill Hospital in Oxford on 21 September After admission to the hospital, Ros was put on IV fluids for possible rehydration. The next day it was decided that she no longer required intravenous fluids and they were stopped. However, the tube (cannula) that was inserted into the crook of her elbow to deliver the fluids was not removed for a further two days, which was against the hospital s own guidelines. Just before the date fixed for the quantum hearing, the case was settled for a lump sum of 1 million plus annual payments of 28,000 to age 60 and 110,000 after age 60, for the rest of her life. The award will allow Ros to continue her work in Africa and retire to the UK at age 60 with dignity and full professional support. The case was conducted on a no win, no fee basis. Ros began complaining of pain and redness in her arm where the cannula was sited, and this worsened over the following days. She was given painkillers and a hot compress to ease the pain. Later tests on the wound indicated that there was a bacterial infection, staphylococcus aureus, and antibiotics were prescribed. Treatment commenced four days after Ros began complaining of pain. Ros continued to deteriorate in the hospital and her nephew, himself a doctor, voiced concerns over her medical and nursing care. She developed pneumonia and by 1 October went into severe respiratory distress. She was transferred to the intensive therapy unit (ITU) the following day. Ros developed septic shock and needed to be put on a life support machine. The toes on her left foot had to be amputated and her heart, kidneys, liver and lungs continued to be affected. She remained unconscious for more than a month and when she awoke she was initially unresponsive. She had sustained a number of strokes during her illness and, as a result, suffered irreversible brain damage. To her credit and because of her character and determination, Ros was able to return to Africa, albeit with substantial care and support. Paul McNeil was instructed on behalf of Ros. The case was tried on liability in The judge found that the cannula should have been removed, and she should have been prescribed treatment for her staph. infection earlier.

9 Obstetrics Court approves 335,000 award in shoulder dystocia case During Claudia s delivery in 1994 her shoulder became stuck behind her mother s pubic symphysis (shoulder dystocia). We argued that the obstetric team failed to apply the correct abdominal pressure on Claudia s mother to try to dislodge the shoulder. Further, that the team applied excessive traction to Claudia s head and brachial plexus to try to deliver her. Our medical expert advised that the excessive nature of the force used to deliver Claudia was evidenced by the extent of the injury to her brachial plexus. All 5 nerve roots were damaged. This meant that Claudia s right arm had very limited function. Claudia underwent three attempts at remedial surgery but without success. The hospital denied liability. It argued that the injury happened due to the baby s posture during the pregnancy or due to the normal forces of delivery. Before court proceedings were issued the defendant offered to settle the claim for just under 129,000. This was eventually increased to 250,000. Samantha Critchley who acted for Claudia advised that this was too low given Claudia had suffered such a serious and permanent injury. She therefore issued proceedings in the High Court in April The hospital indicated their intention to defend the claim, but after further negotiation agreed to pay 335,000 in damages. This was approved by the court in March The case was funded by legal aid. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 9

10 Obstetrics Liability admitted in cerebral palsy case after long fight James mother was pregnant with twins when she went into pre-term labour at 30 weeks. An examination showed that the twins were not in distress. She initially attended Hexham General Hospital where attempts were made to stop the premature labour. She was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital for continued care. Throughout the labour the fetal heart rates were normal and the obstetricians were confident that the twins were in excellent health. When James mother became fully dilated, it was decided that the twins should be delivered naturally. To facilitate the birth, an attempt was made to manually rotate James head, and when this failed, Kielland s forceps were used to assist in the delivery. We argued that the obstetrician attending did not have the experience to deliver twins with Kielland s forceps, especially at 30 weeks gestation, and that he used too much force to deliver James. As a result of the traumatic delivery, James suffered a serious crushing fracture of the skull and he also began haemorrhaging. The bleeding caused significant brain damage, resulting in developmental delay and hemiplegia. Paul McNeil was instructed to take a claim against the Royal Victoria Hospital. James had been represented by solicitors in Newcastle for many years but little had been done to progress his claim. We obtained medical advice and asserted that the force used during the forceps delivery was excessive, causing the fracture, and that the manual rotation of the head should not have been attempted. We claimed that if he had been delivered by caesarean section, James would not have suffered any injuries. James suffered sequelae including poor head growth. He has hemiplegia on his left side. At this stage, it is impossible to assess the full extent of his disabilities and his prognosis. This case settled on liability only in November James parents were paid money on account to support his care and education. James, pictured with his sisters, December 2009 Paul couldn t have been more helpful in dealing with what is such an emotional issue that impacts on our family s life. We both feel that in instructing FFW, we are in good hands. We couldn t have found anyone better. Gillian and Michael, James parents

11 Obstetrics Substantial damages for injuries caused during birth Michelle was due her first child on 18 December She was taken into hospital and labour was induced on 27 December. Abigail was born at the next morning. During the labour Abigail was deprived of oxygen and this resulted in her developing cerebral palsy, global developmental delay and epilepsy. Michelle instructed Paul McNeil to take a claim against Colchester General Hospital. The hospital s own inquiry found evidence of shoddy care. Since negligence was not admitted, we obtained independent advice and asserted that, during the labour, the fetal heart monitor was not interpreted correctly. We asserted that a fetal blood sample should have been taken, Michelle s waters should have been broken, and, if necessary, a caesarean section should have been carried out. Abigail would have been born without disability had these steps been taken. Well after proceedings had commenced, the hospital finally admitted that Abigail should have been delivered at least 30 minutes earlier and that her injuries occurred during this period. With proper care Abigail would not have suffered any injury. Abigail needs constant care as a result of her cerebral palsy. The claim was settled in July 2009 for a lump sum of 2.8 million. In addition, the following annual payments were agreed: 106,000 to age ten, 146,000 to age 16, 177,000 to age 19 and 209,000 from age 19 for the rest of her life. These sums will ensure that Abigail will be cared for and her potential will be fully met. Our decision to go and speak to Paul McNeil about the events surrounding our daughter Abigail s birth and whether we had a case to pursue was, in hindsight, probably one of the best decisions we have ever made. Without hesitation, we would highly recommend Paul to anyone in a similar position. From day one, Paul s passion was clearly obvious and his desire to achieve the best possible outcome for Abigail was unquestionable. Paul helped us remain focused throughout the difficult times and was a constant source of reassurance during the legal merry-go-round. I don t think we ever doubted for a minute we would get the right result in the end and this was testament to Paul. The eventual outcome, after some five years, far exceeded our expectations and we now know we will be able to provide Abigail with the best possible care and equipment she so richly deserves. We are, and will always be, forever grateful to Paul and FFW for what they have done for us as a family. Michelle and Rod Elliott March 2010 Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 11

12 Obstetrics 325,000 damages 23 years later! In February 1986 Ali s mother went into labour and was admitted to Luton & Dunstable Hospital. There were concerns about the baby s heart rate on the CTG trace. It was decided to expedite delivery. An attempt was made to deliver with forceps, which failed. A ventouse delivery was then carried out, according to the medical records, with moderate pulls. Ali was born with Erb s palsy and Horner s syndrome. This resulted in a permanently damaged arm: his left arm was 8cms shorter than the right and the range of motion in his left shoulder, elbow and wrist was significantly reduced. Surgery could not improve the injuries to the arm which were considered permanent. It was alleged that the obstetrician failed to take appropriate steps to dislodge Ali s impacted shoulder and used excessive force to deliver him. It was our case that Ali would have been delivered unharmed with appropriate care. Ali s parents had previously instructed two local Luton law firms to investigate the claim. Both firms did a preliminary investigation but turned the case down. Samantha Critchley obtained a Legal Aid certificate in April 2004, which time Ali was 18. We obtained supportive expert evidence, which allowed us to issue a claim in the High Court in February A trial date was set for July The hospital fully defended the claim and denied liability until very close to trial. After a meeting between the obstetric experts on both sides, Samantha pressed the defendant for an admission. A formal admission of negligence was made on 26 May 2009, just days before a settlement meeting took place. Following negotiations the matter settled and the court approved the 325,000 settlement on 4 June 2009.

13 Obstetrics 9.5 million damages for severe injuries caused during birth Abdullahi s mother attended North Middlesex Hospital on 19 November She was in early labour and her membranes had ruptured earlier that day. A CTG trace was commenced to monitor the fetal heart rate. During the delivery her baby s heart rate slowed due to stress caused by hypoxia and the baby went into distress at The doctor did not arrive until half an hour later. Abdullahi was born at and needed to be resuscitated and have his airways cleared. As a result of oxygen deprivation, Abdullahi suffered severe brain damage, which caused severe developmental delay, mild cerebral palsy and visual impairment. He also suffers from epilepsy and is doubly incontinent. He cannot communicate and requires round the clock care. In contrast, Abdullahi is physically powerful and can make heavy demands on his parents and carers. Paul McNeil was instructed and he alleged that these injuries were caused by the negligence of the defendants in their management of the labour. Liability was settled in July 2004 and a rehabilitation regime was set up with money received on account of the award. In November 2009 Mr Justice Butterfield approved an award of approximately 9.5 million, made up of a lump sum of 2.8 million, and annual payments of 169,000 until Abdullahi is 19, and 202,166 thereafter. At the approval hearing Mr Justice Butterfield said: - I am quite confident that the award and the compromises that forms part of it properly recognises the risks of litigation and provide for the future of the Claimant as best money can. They say that one picture is worth a thousand words. I have to say that I was deeply moved when I watched the DVD of a day in the life of this Claimant. I was moved, firstly, with compassion for his condition, but moved also by the obvious dedication and devotion that his parents have shown to him and will continue to do so as the challenges, I regret to say, increase rather than diminish with the passage of time. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 13

14 Ophthalmology 390,000 for untreated eye infection Continued from page 1. She advised to treat for cancer and not investigate or treat the infection. The hospital s guidelines stated that Robert should have immediately been taken to theatre and given antibiotics directly into his eyes as there was a very significant risk that he would lose his sight. There were many occasions over the next days when the ophthalmologists should have taken the correct course but the infection remained untreated. Robert was transferred to the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre on 31 December in a moribund state. He had developed septicaemia and a severe eye infection, endogenous endophthalmitis, which rendered him blind. We argued that treatment on the night of admission with intravitreal antibiotics would have saved his sight and prevented the septicaemia. Paul McNeil acted on behalf of Robert and pursued a medical negligence claim against the Northampton General for the delay in diagnosis and treatment. On expert advice, we alleged that with proper, earlier treatment, Robert would not have been rendered blind, although he may have suffered impaired vision as a result of the initial infection. The claim was settled for 390,000 in November 2009 and was funded by legal aid. When I lost my sight, I lost everything. I was totally despondent. I didn t know what to do. With the help of my family, we decided to channel our frustrations in a legal battle. We knew that I had not been treated properly, but we had to find someone who believed in our plight. Paul McNeil believed that we had a case, although not an easy one. Paul worked tirelessly on my behalf, always seeking out the best experts and giving me advice when I needed it. My future is now far from bleak. I will be in a position to acquire specialist equipment, which will return a degree of normality to my life. Without Paul s hard work, none of this would have been possible. Robert Sowerby, November 2009

15 Ophthalmology 25,000 for woman partially blinded by eye infection missed at Moorfields Ala, a 22 year old woman who wears contact lenses, attended her GP in September 2005 with a pain in her left eye, which was also discharging pus. She had left her contact lenses in overnight. She was prescribed antibiotic drops but her condition worsened, even though she regularly attended Moorfields Eye Hospital. Paul McNeil was instructed to take a claim on behalf of Ala. He obtained medical evidence and asserted that her injuries were as a result of the failure of medical staff at Moorfields to treat her appropriately and in a timely manner. The case settled for 25,000 in May The treating doctors diagnosed a bacterial infection and continued the prescription of antibiotic drops and steroids. Notwithstanding the antibiotics, the infection in Ala s eye worsened. She was in pain and her sight was failing. At the first Moorfield s appointment, the discharge from her eye tested positive for an acanthamoeba infection which is not sensitive to antibiotics. This report was not acted upon. She should have been treated with antiacanthamoeba therapy. She was not. The wrong treatment continued for two months. Eventually a second microbiological test (performed because no improvement was being made) identified the correct cause of the infection and the correct treatment started. Sadly, it was too late and Ala is now partially blind in her left eye. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 15

16 Orthopaedic Surgery MRSA victim receives 400,000 compensation James Wollacott dislocated his knee and ruptured an artery while trampolining in May He underwent emergency surgery to save his leg, which left him with open wounds. Tests on the wounds revealed that there was a superficial infection caused by staphylococcus aureus. It was then found that, in addition, James had ruptured the ligaments in his knee and that further surgery would be required. Instead of waiting for the superficial infection to clear and the open wounds (from the emergency operation) to heal, a ligament reconstruction was carried out. This surgery opened up the knee and allowed the infection to develop in the knee. This resulted in an abscess forming behind the knee, which had to be drained. It was alleged that this drain acted as a portal for the superbug MRSA to get into the knee. James became severely unwell and suffered with MRSA septicaemia. As a consequence of the MRSA infection, James needed several procedures to clean out the infection and a number of operations to try to repair his knee. The surgical treatment has so far been unsuccessful. James has been left with an unstable right knee and a limp. There is permanent numbness in the outside of his ankle and over his foot. It is likely that he will need a total knee replacement within twenty years. James was a keen sportsman before the accident. His sporting activities are now significantly restricted and he has been unable to return to his work as an electrical engineer. James suffered psychologically as a result of his physical injuries. Samantha Critchley acted for James in a claim against St Mary s Hospital. She argued that the knee ligament repair, which was not an emergency operation, should have been postponed to allow James to recover. James would not have contracted MRSA and the primary ligament reconstruction would have been a success. The case was strenuously defended right up to trial in May An offer of 400,000 was made by the defendant a week before trial, which James accepted. Samantha was very clear from the outset of my claim that she thought my chances of success were slim and that very few cases such as mine had had a successful outcome. However, she is an astute lawyer and her determination to achieve her goal, regardless of the odds, make her a formidable opponent. Samantha is very focussed and, despite tough opposition from the NHS lawyers, robustly stood her ground demanding explanations and exposing contradictions in their defence; after three years of difficult negotiations, her skill and perseverance culminated in a very satisfactory out of court settlement. James Wollacott, January 2010

17 Plastic Surgery Plastic surgeon perforates bowel pays 35,000 Louise underwent liposuction surgery on her thighs and abdomen as a private patient in April During the procedure the surgeon perforated her bowel, although this was not evident at the time. The initial post-op recovery was uncomplicated until Louise developed severe stomach pains at home a few days later. An ultrasound at Kent & Sussex Hospital revealed a perforated bowel and Louise required an emergency laparotomy and repair of the perforation. She also needed a blood transfusion. After surgery Louise was diagnosed with pleurisy, pneumonia and embolisms on her left lung. She became severely anaemic and required follow up treatment for some months. The defendant immediately agreed to pay for the cost of Louise s recuperation. Mark Bowman was instructed to act on Louise s behalf and a letter of claim was sent to the surgeon. The defendant responded denying liability. Medical experts instructed by both sides disagreed about whether the defendant had been negligent during the course of the surgery. Notwithstanding continued denials of liability, a settlement of 35,000 was achieved almost the full value of the case, which was funded by a household insurance policy. At the conclusion of the case Louise said Thank you Mark. You made a very difficult period for me easier to bear. I always felt that you were on top of matters and was grateful for the manner in which you conducted matters throughout. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 17

18 Psychiatric Care 550,000 to family shocked by sudden death of law professor Professor of law, Benjamin Pettet, aged 50, attempted to commit suicide at home and was taken to Epsom Hospital for treatment on 17 June He was transferred to the psychiatric ward at the hospital where he was clerked and prescribed anti-psychotic medication. He was not seen by a qualified psychiatrist at any point during his stay at the hospital, although he exhibited signs of schizophrenia and paranoia. He was also at high risk of self harm, which had been recognised by the admitting doctors and nurses. None of the ward staff took account this. Over the next few days his condition deteriorated and he became increasingly paranoid. The ward was chaotic and the consultant was on holiday. The junior doctor in charge had no psychiatric qualifications. He unnecessarily delayed the medication and did not order proper supervision and input by the psychiatric nurses. Paul McNeil was instructed by the family of the deceased. Initially we represented the family at the Inquest. The coroner found that the suicide was contributed to by medical negligence. We obtained expert advice and alleged that Professor Pettet was not treated properly. He should have been observed closely by the nurses. He should have been assessed regularly by a psychiatrist and his medication shouldn t have been changed. In addition, he was moved on his final day, from a single room to a four bed ward. Professor Pettet was a private man and we argued that this had been done without proper assessment and was the catalyst which caused his death. The claim was settled for 550,000 in October 2009 a few days before the trial. Paul was very gifted in finding just the right people to help him fight the case. The medical experts, the barristers and the accountant all showed enormous dedication for their work. It made a sharp contrast to all those who treated my husband in hospital. The compensation paid to me as a result of Paul s successful work will enable me to start to relax and stop worrying about my and our children s future. Corry Pettet with her children, October 2009

19 What others say about us This is a compact and highly effective team, with expertise across a wide range of clinical negligence claims. It also has a strong emphasis on high-value and particularly complex cases. Chambers, 2010 A fantastically good lawyer, Paul McNeil is considered to be one of the foremost practitioners in clinical negligence. He is known for his careful management of cases from start to finish, and is credited for his impressive handling of the medical details of cases. Chambers, 2010 Samantha Critchley is consistently praised as one to watch ; she has all the makings of a star performer, she is clever, brave and knows each of her cases inside out. The Legal 500, 2009 Richard Earle is singled out for his smooth and thorough approach. Successful cases for the team included Munday v Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust in which the highest reported settlement in an Erb s Palsy case was awarded. The Legal 500, 2009 I cannot thank Mark enough for the kindly and efficient way he handled my claim, right from day one. I was very apprehensive about my claim at the beginning, fearing that there had to be some hidden snag in a no win, no fee claim. But Mark s patient reassurance gave me the confidence to go ahead. My award at this stage in my life is a life-changing sum of money, which will take the worry out of fuel bills etc... Pauline Robison, client January 2010 Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise 19

20 Contacts Paul McNeil t e. Paul is the head of the medical negligence department and has more than 25 years experience in a wide variety of medical negligence cases. Samantha Critchley t e. Samantha specialises in fetal medicine (wrongful birth); obstetrics (Erb s palsy, traumatic deliveries, pre-eclampsia, stillbirth and hypoxic injuries); paediatrics; neurology (acquired brain injury and tumours), gynaecology (cervical, ovarian and breast cancers); ophthalmology, general surgery and orthopaedics. Richard Earle t e. Richard s wide and varied practice covers medical negligence across the spectrum ranging from cases of maximum severity to oncology, ophthalmic, general and plastic surgery as well as claims against GPs. Mark Bowman t e. Mark s medical negligence practice is wide ranging including birth injury cases, neurological cases, cancer cases and general and plastic surgery claims. Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP 35 Vine Street London EC3N 2AA t: f: e: web: This publication is not a substitute for detailed advice on specific transactions and should not be taken as providing legal advice on any of the topics discussed. Copyright Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP All rights reserved. Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC318472, which is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members and their professional qualifications is available for inspection at its registered office, 35 Vine Street London EC3N 2AA. We use the word partner to refer to a member of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications. Caring for our clients Commitment to our cases Cutting edge expertise

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