David Knifton QC and Chris Gutteridge recover over £1.6m in negligent anaesthetist claim

September 20, 2021

David Knifton QC and Chris Gutteridge of Exchange Chambers have recovered damages of £1.625 million for a 61 year old woman who suffered a spinal stroke during back surgery in 2016 when her blood pressure was allowed to remain dangerously low during the operation.

Medical experts instructed on the Claimant’s behalf concluded that the anaesthetist in charge of monitoring and controlling the Claimant’s blood pressure during the surgery had failed to take account of her medical history, including longstanding hypertension (persistently raised blood pressure). In particular, he had failed to set a ‘baseline’ having regard to blood pressure readings taken at the pre-operative assessment a month earlier or on the ward immediately before she was taken into theatre. As a result, he failed to recognise that the Claimant’s blood pressure had fallen below her ‘baseline’ (normal) level by more than 30% during the procedure and took no action to bring her blood pressure back up above a safe threshold.

The Claimant’s low blood pressure during the surgery caused a prolonged reduction in blood flow to her spine leading to an anterior spinal artery infarction and a major spinal cord injury. The Claimant was left with incomplete (ASIA C) paraplegia at level T6 and is significantly disabled. Had she not suffered the spinal stroke, she would have made a good recovery from her surgery within a matter of weeks with normal neurological function.

The Defendant anaesthetist denied liability in full, claiming that he had not been negligent and that the Claimant’s stroke was an inevitability because of the way she had been positioned during the surgery. Both breach of duty and causation remained in dispute.

The claim was scheduled for a 5 day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2021 to determine liability and causation as preliminary issues. However, at a joint settlement meeting held just over 2 weeks before that trial was due to start, David and Chris negotiated the settlement of £1.625 million with representatives of the anaesthetist’s defence union. The Defendant will also pay recoverable benefits to the DWP and the Claimant’s legal costs.

David Knifton QC said after the settlement meeting: “This settlement is an excellent outcome in a very difficult case. The Defendant’s representatives were very obviously prepared to run their defence to a trial, leaving the Claimant with the prospect of recovering nothing at all in compensation for her injury. The settlement sum of £1.625 million is an appropriate reflection of the risks in the case, but, most importantly, will allow the Claimant to buy and adapt a suitable bungalow and access the therapies and assistance that she so desperately needs. The resilience and determination she has shown since her injury and throughout this litigation have been admirable. We are delighted to have been able to secure a life changing award of compensation for her.”

The Claimant was delighted with the successful resolution of her claim and praised David and Chris for their clarity and support and the care and compassion they have given.”

David and Chris were instructed by Iain Dodd and Daniel Finney of Fletchers Solicitors, Southport.