Settlement of claim for a breach of duty of care leading to a spinal cord injury (SCI)

Our client, HHH, was born with a particularly rare underlying degenerative condition which was associated with spinal deterioration. An operation to stabilise the spine was performed at a very young age. As a result of errors, including a failure to undertake baseline neurophysiology testing in advance of surgery, and a failure to obtain and monitor neurophysiological responses before and during the surgery, a spinal cord injury (SCI) was sustained at the T7 vertebra, leading to paraplegia. HHH was transferred to a specialist unit where the paralysis was confirmed to be permanent, and was extremely unwell over many days. There followed a long period of rehabilitation.

No explanation was given as to the cause of the SCI, however, following investigation, expert opinion was obtained confirming a breach of duty of care. Very detailed allegations of breach of duty of care were made and liability was eventually admitted, following which proceedings were issued and judgment entered. Interim payments were obtained, and HHH was able to move to wheelchair accessible rented accommodation, pending settlement. Our client then had access to additional care and specialist equipment, including an adapted vehicle and therapy.

Valuing the claim was exceptionally complex with limited medical knowledge on how the underlying condition would progress. The defendant argued that a high level of disability, with a very short life expectancy, would have arisen in any event at an early stage, and their position relied on the case of Reaney, which confirms that a claimant is not entitled to damages in respect of needs which would have existed in any event. Notwithstanding the defendant’s arguments, the damages award reflects the case put forward on behalf of HHH, which predicted life expectancy well into middle age and a deterioration of the condition decades later than the defendant originally suggested.

Careful instruction of eminent experts in a variety of specialist fields was key to understanding the impact of the injury and future needs. Final settlement could only be reached once a rigorous analysis of this evidence had been undertaken with the additional input of very experienced leading barrister. HHH now has funds to support independence and the opportunity to live life to the fullest.

Partner, Stephanie Code was assisted in this matter by Aline Constan, senior paralegal and Elizabeth Maloney, associate.

Return to case studies

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP