11 The Parks, Newton-Le-Willows, WA12 0JQ

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Case Study: Clinical Negligence

We were instructed by Mrs H to pursue a clinical negligence claim against an NHS Trust in relation to the negligent treatment she received by one of their surgeons in November 2013.

Mrs H dislocated her left elbow whilst riding her bicycle. She was taken to her local Accident & Emergency department where she was initially treated with manipulation of the dislocation, with a view to surgery the following day in order to repair the medial collateral ligament of her left elbow. 

After her surgery, Mrs H reported excruciating pain around her elbow, with reduced function of the arm and altered sensation in both the arm and hand. She underwent nerve conduction studies which identified severe left ulnar nerve damage.  Exploration surgery was scheduled to ascertain the cause and this revealed that a surgical suture placed during the initial ligament repair had been tied into the ulnar nerve itself, causing a crushing injury to the nerve, which fully explained her post-operative symptoms.   The surgeon re-opened the arm wound, with a larger incision than previously, removed the suture and reclosed the new wound.  He then complied with his duty of candour in explaining to Mrs H exactly what had happened and apologising for his error.  

Many of her post-operative symptoms resolved once the suture had been removed from the nerve, and Mrs H was able to return fully to her previous job, but she was left with some residual symptoms as follows:

  • Slight loss of fine motor function in the left hand;
  • A degree of ulnar nerve paraesthesia causing a slight but permanent weakness in the arm and ongoing nuisance level discomfort;
  • Scarring beyond that caused by her original surgery and some hypersensitivity at the scar site.

Medico-legal evidence was obtained from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon with regards to causation and in respect of Mrs H’s current condition and future prognosis.  The evidence supported a link between the nerve injury and the residual symptoms reported and also supported Mrs H’s contention that she needed assistance now and again from family members with some fine motor tasks.  This equated to just an hour or so assistance per week, albeit she would need that on a permanent basis.  In addition, it supported that, although she had managed to return fully to work (this was in part due to her employer being very understanding and adapting her tasks), she was likely to find herself at a disadvantage should she ever become unemployed and need to seek similar work.

We recovered compensation for Mrs H’s pain, suffering and loss of amenity, a sum for gratuitously provided past and future care and assistance, her initial post-operative loss of earnings and also a monetary award equivalent to 2 times Mrs’s H’s annual salary - to reflect her likely disadvantage should she ever find herself on the open labour market.  After negotiations out of court, a damages settlement was achieved in the sum of £77,000.00 with the NHS trust to also pay Mrs H’s legal costs. 

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