Serious Injury

£10.5M settlement secured in meningitis negligence case

September 4, 2023
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The Incident

This very sad and complex case related to a delay in diagnosis of bacterial meningitis, resulting in two below-the-knee amputations, loss of most fingers on both hands, and renal failure.

In January 2006, when he was aged six, our client woke up feeling incredibly unwell and with an extremely high temperature. He couldn’t open his eyes properly and was crying, with his knees bending towards his stomach. Our client’s father had a telephone consultation with his GP who diagnosed him with a viral infection and prescribed an inflammatory medicine without arranging to see the Claimant. Later that day around 2pm, our client’s symptoms worsened, and he developed a rash. He was seen by a nurse, who rolled a glass over it and told him to go to A&E with suspected meningitis.

He attended the local hospital and was treated for meningitis. He was later transferred to Leeds Hospital and placed in the ICU. Our client spent three weeks in hospital and had several operations during that time.

Unfortunately, both legs were amputated below the knee, and surgeons removed the outer part of his arm, three fingers from his left hand, and half of his little finger.

The case

From a legal perspective, it was a difficult case on liability against a single GP practice. The client did not seek legal advice until he was 17 years old, and the GP had long since retired at this point. It was noted at the outset that causation would also be difficult to prove. The main causation issue was whether or not, had he been referred earlier (a matter of hours) to the hospital, whether it would have prevented septicaemia from developing and thus avoided his extensive injuries?

Further, the Defendant GP, was found to have been struck-off the register for bullying behaviour towards patients. In separate incidents, the Defendant cancelled an emergency appointment for a sick baby, refused home visits (including a visit to a cancer patient), and refused to see patients previously examined by his surgery partner.

A breach of duty report was obtained for our client’s case. The expert was of the opinion that prescribing medication following the second phone call, without seeing the patient, was negligent. The nurse who saw our client should have admitted Benzylpenicillin, before sending the child to A+E.

A causation report was also obtained from a Paediatric Intensivist. The expert was of the opinion that, if our client had been referred to the hospital a few hours earlier, he would have sustained significantly less limb damage and organ failure.

Our team obtained various expert reports to support the claim, including orthopaedic, plastic surgery, rehabilitation, prosthesis, occupational therapy, psychology, and accommodation specialists.

Following a detailed letter of claim, the Defendant made a full admission of liability on both breach and most causation.

The aftermath

The alleged negligence had a severe impact on our client’s daily life. He was unable to eat, wash, do laundry, complete any daily tasks whatsoever, without assistance from his parents and siblings.

Our client was living with his family in a housing association property. The three-storey property had some basic adaptations, but overall, it was unsuitable for his needs. Our client was also using NHS prosthetics, which were extremely heavy and often uncomfortable.

An interim payment of £1.4 million was secured on behalf of our client, which assisted him in consideration a suitable property and other facilities and equipment to assist his daily activities; in particular, the employment of a friendly support worker.

The case outcome

The case was considered at a Round Table Meeting in July 2023.

A settlement was reached for £5 million lump sum (less the interim payment for £1.4 million) and £80,000.00 per year in periodical payments, index linked to keep up with inflation. The capitalised value worked out at a total settlement of £10.5 million.

Partner & Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor, Trevor Ward commented:

“This was a very rewarding success on a claim that was difficult at the outset, but which was concluded with cooperation on both sides within a relatively short space of time.

“The settlement will greatly assist the Claimant over his lifetime and with the assistance of a case manager, will facilitate the purchase of relevant and beneficial equipment and a new home suitably adapted for his needs.

“This young man waited for 12 years for his parents to make an enquiry. It is best not to leave matters too late. We are always interested to hear your story and to assist when we can. Do not hesitate to make that initial call.”

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