The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP is currently preparing for potentially three significant trials to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in the UK in the first few weeks of 2016. All three relate to alleged failures of medical care in areas where the team handles a lot of claims.
The first is for a lower limb amputation resulting from the failure to recognise vascular compromise in a diabetic patient quickly enough. The second relates to a failure to carry out a venous thromboembolism (VTE) risk assessment in an immobile patient which resulting in the development of a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs). The third relates to delays in diagnosing and treating a patient with Cauda Equina Syndrome, resulting in permanent neurological damage including bladder and bowel dysfunction. The allegations all involve NHS care provided in A&E, vascular, neurosurgical and oncology departments at five separate hospitals.
In each case, some admissions of failings in care have been made but either the extent of the failings and/or the damage caused by such failings is in dispute. All three claims are substantial in terms of the level of damages claimed.
Philippa Luscombe, a partner involved in all of these cases, comments: “It is unusual for clinical negligence cases to go to trial and particularly so for us to have three significant cases all listed for trial in such a short timeframe. Most of the steps in the court timetable for each case have now been completed so the parties know what is in dispute and where they each stand. As the court directions in each case require the parties to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before proceeding to trial, it is usual at two to three months before trial to be in a process of negotiations, either by way of offers or a settlement meeting.
“However, the parties in all three cases are some way apart. The stakes are high as the sums involved in both damages and costs are already high and it is usually the costs and risks of trial that bring the parties to the negotiating table. But these cases are all a long way down the line without settlement and it will be interesting to see to what extent the NHSLA is willing to make concessions at this relatively late stage in the day.
“All three of these cases involve scenarios that, as clinical negligence lawyers, we see quite regularly. They are areas of medical care that need improvement to avoid patients suffering life changing damage and also to reduce the significant cost to the NHS of compensating those individuals for their inability to work, specialist equipment and accommodation needs, lifetime care requirements, rehabilitation etc.”