‘Caroline’ – Paralysed during spinal surgery

Case handler(s): Ben Priestley (Senior Solicitor) assisted by Christopher Lecky (Solicitor)

During the course of cervical spinal surgery the surgeon extended the surgical instrument into the spinal cord, causing irreversible damage.

Aged 56, our client was left paralysed below the elbow with loss of function and sensation leaving our client entirely dependent upon others.

Features of our client’s case

Our legal team were asked to meet with our client’s husband and brother only 4 days after the failed surgery. This enabled us to provide some stability and, where possible, positivity at what was an extremely traumatic time for our client and her immediate family.

We assisted our client on many issues that were ancillary to the litigation, including:

  • Searching for and negotiating the purchase of suitable, alternative property;
  • Supporting our client in meetings with disabled-facility specialist architects and potential contractors;
  • Liaising with the local council over boundary disputes associated with the new property;
  • Facilitating matrimonial/divorce advice in anticipation of marital breakdown, prior to the settlement of the case;
  • Managing and supporting our client through transition and change during the case, for example when electing to cease engagement of the previous Case Manager in favour of an alternative, more dynamic Case Manager.

Where we added value as serious injury specialists

The legal team involved in this case realised that heavy input would be required from the very beginning of the case. Experts were secured and instructed, both in terms of breach of duty/causation and also to value the claim.

Assessments were undertaken by the experts and reports detailing the injury, care needs and accommodation needs were prepared so that proceedings could be issued quickly, and an immediate interim payment application made. We engaged the leading barrister (Counsel), Christopher Melton QC, to join the specialist legal team.

Having refused to agree to the significant interim payment sought, the Defendants relented on the eve of the interim payment application and agreed to make an interim payment in the sum of £1.3 million. Leading Counsel indicated that this interim payment, secured within 11 months of the clinical negligence, was one of the largest interim payment he had come across, in such a short period of time.

It is only with detailed knowledge of what would be required by the Court at the interim payment application, that we were able to set about securing the evidence in the shortest possible timeframe. By doing this, we gave our client the best chance of obtaining a large interim payment and avoiding time in an elderly care facility, away from her husband.

The interim payment we secured for our client allowed her to secure a bungalow that she had identified in the local area and move in, with modest adaptation.

Following the receipt of interim funds from the Defendant, our legal team was able to make a real difference to our client’s life.

Aside from purchase of the suitable property, the legal team was able to facilitate:

  • Specialist spinal cord injury case management. The legal teams had initially sourced case management on a pro-bono basis whilst our client was in the Spinal Unit, and funding was still unavailable;
  • A fully trained, directly recruited care team;
  • Private physiotherapy, at home on a weekly basis;
  • Hydrotherapy locally to aid pain relief;
  • Private medical intervention at a regional Spinal Unit and also at a private hospital specialising in rehabilitation;
  • Private psychology sessions, both for our client and for her husband;
  • The provision of aids and equipment, including more suitable wheelchairs than those available through the NHS;
  • A suitably adapted, wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV). Our Senior Lawyer, Ben Priestley, met with our client’s husband at a WAV exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham to assist with recommendations and suggestions during the buying process.

Our legal team have been a source of consistency and positivity for our client, especially through periods of health complications and marital breakdown. Aside from securing an excellent settlement for our client that gives her financial security for life, we have provided a good deal of assurance during very dark times for her.

Why Serious Law was one of a select handful of firms uniquely able to handle the matter

It is only with a deep appreciation of the needs of those who suffer catastrophic injury that Serious Law are able to act appropriately. It was immediately clear in this case that the former marital home, a 2-bedroom terrace, would be unsuitable given the Claimant’s paralysis and reliance upon a wheelchair.

Many cases such as this are contested with liability denied and interim payments refused. The legal team were conscious that without an interim payment, our client would be discharged from hospital to what was effectively a residential home for the elderly. This would have had a very detrimental effect on our client’s wellbeing, not least because she would have remained separated from her husband.

The settlement

The final multi-million pound settlement involved a multi-million pound lump sum payment and then annual ongoing payments going forwards known as periodical payments.

This settlement came about as a result of negotiations with the Defendant by way of Joint Settlement Meeting where they were represented by David Evans QC and their maximum offer was substantially below our valuation of our client’s claim.

All offers were rejected on the advice of our legal team and the case was progressed towards a trial on the issue of the value of our client’s claim.

A second Joint Settlement Meeting was arranged with a greatly increased offer being negotiated which was accepted by our client and represented an excellent settlement – almost double the lump sum that had been offered 7 months before.

What our client’s brother thought of our handling of his sister’s case

“First and foremost I would like to say a big thank you to you and your team for all the work you have undertaken over the past 3 years which culminated in the positive outcome for my sister yesterday. From the first time we met I have been very impressed by your honesty, integrity and ability to explain complex issues into normal speak. I don’t know if this has been a straight forward or complex case for you but what I do know is that you have provided my sister with hope and purpose where there so easily could have been a giant void for her after what happened whilst realistically managing her expectations throughout.”

All clinical negligence cases are entrusted to the award-winning Medical Negligence Department at Fletchers Solicitors; a dedicated practice which forms part of a wider Group network. This dedicated unit brings unparalleled expertise and experience to each case, ensuring that clients receive the highest level of legal representation and support. Specialising in clinical negligence cases of the highest complexity, the Fletchers team provides comprehensive and compassionate support, leveraging their deep understanding of medical complexities and legal nuances to secure the best possible outcomes for families affected by negligence.

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