We have recently settled a claim on behalf of the estate of an elderly lady who fell while in care, breaking her hip and suffering a substantial overall physical and cognitive decline as a result.
Mrs H was 82 at the time of the events and had dementia. She was in full time residential care. In February 2013 she was found by nursing staff on the floor of her room, in significant pain. The night staff at the time put her back into bed, rather than calling for medical assistance, and then falsified her notes to record that she had in fact had a comfortable night without incident.
When the day staff came on shift, they were concerned about the level of pain that Mrs H was experiencing in her hip, and arranged for an ambulance to take her to hospital. Here, she was diagnosed with a fractured hip. She underwent surgery to repair the fracture, but suffered a post-operative delirium from which she never recovered. From the point that she was discharged from hospital she was bedbound and required 24 hour care.
We were approached in 2016 by Mrs H’s family to investigate the claim on her behalf, and her family were keen that Mrs H should see the benefits of any claim. At this stage she lacked capacity and we therefore appointed a litigation friend.
However, a prompt settlement was frustrated by the apparent loss of the notes by the care home, and then by an initial admission of liability, which was then withdrawn.
An application in court for pre-action disclosure of the care records produced only confirmation that the notes had been lost, and in the absence of any record of events, we obtained detailed witness evidence from Mrs H’s children, setting out the condition of her room and the deterioration in her mobility prior to her fall. We also obtained voluminous safeguarding notes from the local authority as evidence of her pre-fall condition.
Based on the family’s witness statements, we obtained expert evidence from a nursing expert, who was supportive of the claim, and from a consultant geriatrician who prepared a report on Mrs H’s pre-fall condition and her deterioration following her fall.
Sadly, during the lifetime of the claim Mrs H passed away, and we were instructed to continue the claim on behalf of her estate.
Initially, the care home appeared to admit liability for the fall, but later withdrew the admission. We therefore issued the claim in court. When the defence was served, despite the denial of liability, the defendant did not advance any alternative account of events, and given the detailed statements and expert evidence, we felt that the case was suitable for an application for summary judgment, ie to ask the court to agree that the defendant stood no real prospect of success (and that there was no other good reason for the matter to be dealt with at trial). We lodged the application and served our evidence in advance of the hearing. The defendant did not produce any evidence but sought to settle the claim in advance of the hearing. The case was settled a few days before the application was due to be heard, for £50,000.