David Knifton KC and Chris Gutteridge secure compensation of £4.85 million for a woman left with permanent incomplete paraplegia

March 23, 2023

David Knifton KC and Chris Gutteridge have secured compensation of £4.85 million for a 63 year old woman left with permanent incomplete paraplegia as a result of medical negligence.

The Claimant had suffered with back pain from her early 50s, and had undergone spinal surgery in June 2017 to remove part of a bulging disc. Two weeks later, she was re-admitted to hospital with confusion, shallow breathing and discharge from the surgical wound. Doctors at the hospital failed to recognise that these symptoms indicated the possibility of a spinal abscess and failed to properly scan the Claimant’s spine. As a result, remedial surgery was delayed and the Claimant suffered a prolonged period of compression of her spinal cord, leading to permanent damage at the T4 level.

The Defendant Trust initially denied liability, meaning that court proceedings had to be issued by the Claimant’s legal team. At that point, the Defendant admitted that the hospital’s management of the Claimant’s care had been negligent and that, with appropriate treatment, she would have made a full neurological recovery and returned to normal levels of function.

The Claimant was left with permanent paraplegia. She was unable to walk and was reliant on a wheelchair for mobility. She had impaired bladder and bowel function resulting in double incontinence. She developed a post-infection syrinx requiring further surgery. The Claimant became reliant on help for her activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing and personal hygiene. She was unable to return to her pre-injury work as a catering assistant and her home was unsuitable for a wheelchair user.

The £4.85 million settlement encompasses compensation for the Claimant’s loss of earnings since her injury, along with the costs she has incurred as a result of her injury. Of most importance, however, the compensation will fund a lifetime package of professional care and case management, valued at over £2.5m, to address the Claimant’s day-to-day needs. The Claimant will also purchase a large bungalow and adapt it so that it is suitable for her needs as a wheelchair user. Compensation will also be used to fund therapies, specialist equipment, a wheelchair accessible vehicle and specially planned holidays for the Claimant and her carers.

The settlement agreement includes provision for the Claimant to make a further claim for additional damages in the event that she develops another syrinx resulting in a significant deterioration in her condition. Although the Defendant had initially refused to agree provisional damages, the Claimant’s legal team gave her firm advice that she should not compromise her claim on any other basis. The Defendant subsequently agreed to settle on those terms.

David and Chris were instructed by Iain Dodd, a Partner at Fletchers Solicitors, Southport, and senior solicitor in the firm’s clinical negligence department.

In respect of the settlement, Chris said, “This compromise marks the end of a long and complicated claim. This Claimant and her husband have endured a horrific ordeal and have had to come to terms with a life-changing injury. They have done that with admirable poise and grace. They have shown the same composure when dealing with difficult decisions in the litigation process. It has been a pleasure for David and I to work with Iain and his team in bringing this case to a successful conclusion. It really has been a team-effort and we are delighted to have achieved this result.”

Emphasising the importance of the provisional damages award, David Knifton KC observed: “It was extremely disappointing that the Trust’s lawyers attended a settlement meeting without instructions to offer provisional damages, when we had made clear from the outset that this was a prerequisite to settlement. Having suffered such a devastating injury, the Claimant was entitled to the security of knowing that, should her condition suffer a significant deterioration due to a further syrinx, she would be able to seek further compensation for the additional needs arising. It must have been an immense disappointment for her and her husband that settlement was delayed for several more weeks as a result of the Trust’s stance, but I am delighted that we were able to secure the right outcome for her in the end.”

Iain Dodd added “The Claimant is pleased with this excellent result and looks forward to maximising her quality of life after such a catastrophic injury. It has been a joy to instruct David and Chris. The advantages of working with such experienced, dedicated and outstanding Counsel cannot be underestimated. The Claimant and my team at Fletchers Solicitors are grateful for their expertise as we worked tirelessly to secure a very strong outcome”.