The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP has settled a claim on behalf of a former member of the army for negligent surgery performed at Gloucester Royal Hospital in 2014.
The firm’s client had sustained a shoulder injury some years previously and tried to manage her symptoms conservatively, including with physiotherapy. She was able to continue with sports, but to a lesser extent than previously and found that her ability to discharge her army duties was limited. Her shoulder pain became more problematic and she sought medical advice. She was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon who arranged investigations that led to a diagnosis of a Bankart lesion in her right shoulder. He advised surgical repair.
Unfortunately, in the course of the operation to repair the lesion, the surgeon wrongly divided a tendon within her shoulder, the long-head biceps tendon, which retracted and was left unrepaired. Following the surgery, she experienced worse pain and suffered symptoms of weakness and instability, further restricting the range of physical movements she was able to achieve.
After nearly two years of trying to manage this pain, she eventually underwent revision surgery at a different hospital, followed by intensive rehabilitation therapy at the army’s Headley Court facility.
While the revision surgery improved her pain, she remained restricted in her range of movement and was functionally impaired. She had by then been demoted within the army because she could not carry out the range of duties needed to maintain her rank and ultimately, was discharged.
She sought advice from Penningtons Manches and instructed the clinical negligence team to investigate a potential claim.
Her medical notes were reviewed and an expert orthopaedic surgeon assessed the standard of care she had received, particularly in relation to the surgical repair she had undergone.
The expert advised that the division of the long-head biceps tendon in the course of the Bankart lesion repair amounted to a breach of duty and should not have occurred. The care was therefore negligent. In any clinical negligence claim, however, it is necessary to show that a breach of duty has caused damage that would otherwise have been avoided. In this case, it was the expert’s opinion that the extent of damage resulting from the negligent division of the tendon was limited and caused only some of the ongoing problems the client was experiencing.
In his opinion, it was reasonable to claim that those symptoms which had improved following later revision surgery were caused by the negligent tendon division. However, the continuing limitations on her range of movement and functional ability that remained even after revision surgery were attributable to wider degenerative changes and had not been caused by the negligence in her care.
A formal letter of claim was submitted to the hospital trust accordingly, setting out the breaches of duty that occurred and the extent of the damage the expert attributed to the negligence.
The hospital engaged very constructively in resolving the case, admitting at an early stage the negligence that occurred and inviting the client to disclose evidence in support of her claim, which ultimately led to an early settlement in her favour.