Case Studies: Healthcare

Failure to diagnose Cauda Equina – £3.25 million damages

Patrick Mullarkey of O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors acted on behalf of the injured party in a case involving a patient who suffered permanent spinal cord damage as a consequence of substandard care at an Accident & Emergency Department.

The Injury

The injured party attended at a local Accident & Emergency Department in early 2014 reporting a history of having injured her back approximately 2 days previously and experiencing weakness in her right leg with persisting pain and numbness.  She also reported altered sensation and complained that she had difficulty with urination.  The attending Doctor considered the symptoms to amount to nothing more than sciatica.  She was discharged to be reviewed again as an outpatient.

Unfortunately her condition deteriorated over the course of the next few days and by the time she re-presented, her condition had become significantly worse.  An emergency MRI scan was undertaken which demonstrated impingement of the spinal cord.  The patient was admitted for emergency surgery which took place the same day.  Due to the delay in the recognition and treatment of the patient’s condition, she suffered significant and permanent injury to her spinal cord resulting in pain, weakness, numbness, a foot drop and impairment of her bladder and bowel function.

The Loss Sustained by Patient

The patient was unable to continue in her profession and was retired early on medical grounds.  As a consequence of her injuries, her mobility was significantly restricted and this resulted in difficulties in the patient engaging in the care of her young family and the maintenance of her home.  The injured party has ongoing therapy needs and requires input from an Occupational Therapist and a Physiotherapist.  The injuries also interfered with the Plaintiff’s pastime and hobbies.

The Case

Patrick Mullarkey of O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors was approached by the Plaintiff in 2014, querying whether or not she had suffered a worse outcome as a consequence of the delay in the recognition and treatment of her condition.  We conducted a detailed review of the medical notes and records in the case, commissioned independent expert evidence, and established that not only was the care substandard at the time of her attendance at the Accident & Emergency Department, but had appropriate care been provided to her, the outcome for her would have been much better.  Certainly she could have expected to continue to work and whilst she would have been left with some symptomology, her condition would have been much better than it actually is.  Proceedings were, therefore, issued on behalf of the Plaintiff and we conducted a detailed review of the loss sustained by the patient by reason of the substandard care.

The Successful Outcome

We commissioned evidence in relation to that loss from various experts in care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, equestrian activities, accommodation, pensions.  Liability in relation to the breach of duty at the Accident & Emergency Department was admitted, in the face of overwhelming evidence, in early 2017, and the case proceeded to trial on issues of value in the Autumn of 2018.  After protracted negotiations between the parties, the case settled in the Plaintiff’s favour and for a lump sum payment of £3.25 million plus full costs.  The Plaintiff privately funded this action and recovered the full costs of her action against the Defendant in addition to the damages received.  The damages comprise significant awards in relation to the injuries, the care needs which have arisen by reason of the injury, loss of earnings, loss of pension, ongoing therapy, the costs of participating in her pastimes and the renovation of her family home to make it suitable to her needs.

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