Successful claim for damages against Royal Berkshire NHS Trust for death of man from undiagnosed pulmonary embolism Image

Successful claim for damages against Royal Berkshire NHS Trust for death of man from undiagnosed pulmonary embolism

Posted: 14/04/2015

Mrs Patricia Roriston of Wokingham and Virginia Water has won her claim for damages against The Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust at the High Court arising from the death of her partner, Terence “Terry” Emmett. She was represented by clinical negligence specialist law firm, Penningtons Manches.

Mr Emmett died on 20 November 2009, aged 68, following a pulmonary embolism. He had previously been admitted to The Royal Berkshire Hospital suffering from symptoms which included a shortness of breath and collapse.

On 17 November 2009, Mr Emmett developed acute shortness of breath and attended his GP who prescribed diuretics. His condition deteriorated and he attended the Accident and Emergency department of The Royal Berkshire Hospital where he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and admitted for investigations. 

Mr Emmett’s blood test results were abnormal. In particular, his D-dimer (a specific measure for the formulation of thrombus in deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) was grossly abnormal at 14 times the upper limit of normal. This result was noted in the medical records but no action was taken and he continued to be treated for congestive heart failure. No further investigations were undertaken. 

On 20 November 2009, Mr Emmett’s condition further deteriorated and a pulmonary embolism was suspected. Thrombolytic treatment was given but, sadly, Mr Emmett suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away. 

A claim was therefore brought on behalf of Mrs Patricia Roriston by Penningtons Manches in respect of loss of dependency. The hospital trust admitted that a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism should have been made and, if treatment had been started on 18 November 2009, Mr Emmett would have survived without complication.

The parties were unable to come to an agreement on the amount of damages to be awarded to Mrs Roriston and so the claim proceeded to trial before Sir Robert Frances QC on 26 and 27 February 2015.

Evidence was heard from Mrs Roriston and her family regarding Mr Emmett’s passion and determination to work despite his age, his desire to always put his family first and his loving and caring nature. Those representing the trust argued that Mr Emmett would not have returned to work and therefore wished to significantly reduce the award of damages sought by Mrs Roriston.

Sir Robert Frances held that not only would Mr Emmett have returned to work once he had recovered from his illness but that he would also have continued to work for the remainder of his life. Mrs Roriston was successful in recovering twice the defendant’s last offer before trial.

Clinical negligence lawyer, Emily Palmer, said: “This is an incredibly sad case. The loss of a loved one is devastating not only to the family but to all who knew and loved him. It has been difficult for Patricia and her family to come to terms with the fact that a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment would have saved Terry’s life. The circumstances in which Terry died could have been entirely avoided.

“We are glad that Patricia and her family have had such a positive outcome from the trial and we are grateful to Sir Robert Francis QC for his decision. It is, however, disappointing that a positive outcome could not have been achieved without the need to go to trial as this added significantly to the distress of Patricia and her family.” 

Mrs Roriston said: “The family do not see this award as a victory as nothing can bring Terry back but we are pleased that Sir Robert’s decision has finally brought justice for Terry”.

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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 under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP