Dutton Gregory Panel Case Study

Carol Maunder, partner and head of clinical negligence at law firm Dutton Gregory, talks to us about a recent case that came via First4Lawyers and has now successfully settled. Her client suffered an injury while at work, and after attending his local A&E successfully brought a claim against the hospital. Carol talks us through what happened and how a catalogue of errors by the hospital led to unnecessary pain and suffering for her client.

The case

Our client, who came to us through First4Lawyers, got in touch because he had suffered an accident at work in 2016, when a heavy roll of vinyl fell on to his left hand causing a crushing injury.

He naturally went to his local A&E to get his hand checked over as it had swollen and bruised badly. The doctors assured him it was just a soft tissue injury that would heal in a couple of weeks and sent him home without further investigation. Four days later, in increasing pain, he returned to A&E as the swelling had become worse, he had limited movement in his left hand, his fingers had also become very swollen and his hand was red and hot to touch – he was concerned that there might be an infection. This time he was given an x-ray which showed no fracture. He asked doctors if there was an infection, but once again he was assured there was not and was told to take painkillers and rest his hand.

Two days after this second visit to A&E he noticed the redness and swelling on his hand was spreading, so contacted his GP, who confirmed that he had an infection and told him to attend hospital if it became worse. The following day a yellow spot, which had appeared in the centre of the redness the day before, had grown to the size of a 50p piece and by the evening it had started to discharge, and he developed a temperature. Understandably he was growing increasingly concerned at this point, his hand was getting worse and he was starting to feel unwell. On that basis, he decided to once again attend A&E where he was diagnosed as having an abscess, and advised to return the next day for surgery.

While relieved to finally have a proper diagnosis my client then had to face two painful operations which could otherwise have been avoided. One involved incisions in his finger and knuckles, and a second operation which was needed to drain and washout his hand. Following this second operation he spent five days in hospital receiving intravenous antibiotics, to help finally clear the last of the infection.

What went wrong?

This was a fairly clear-cut case, where the defendant, the hospital, had failed to take an accurate history of events, failed to appreciate that my client’s hand had worsened since the previous day and that there was now restricted movement. They had also failed to take our client’s temperature which, crucially, would have indicated the infection, and subsequently failed to diagnose an infection following the second visit to A&E. This meant he hadn’t been referred to a senior doctor and been prescribed the oral antibiotics which would have stemmed the infection. The defendants admitted these failings in their letter of response to our letter of complaint.

Was there negligence?

Yes, the hospital admitted negligence. If our client had received prompt treatment with oral antibiotics, he would not have developed an abscess and his cellulitis would have resolved within seven days. This course of treatment would have avoided the two operations that he subsequently had to undergo, and he would have only been off work for one or two weeks instead of the 11 weeks it actually took.

He was consequently unable to work during that period and needed to wear a splint.  He was left with a 5cm scar on his left hand, which was left weaker than would be expected and he found that his hand would ache considerably if he had to use it for any length of time. 

After further assessment he was told, sadly, he was unlikely to make any further improvement and no further treatment would rectify this for him.

The outcome 

Following the hospital’s admission of negligence and the fact that the delay in diagnosis and prompt treatment had caused, or at least materially contributed, to the long-term damage that occurred, the claim settled for £22,750.  £12,000 was for general damages and £10,750 was for special damages.  The main items being loss of earnings and a reasonable care claim. Our client was happy with this outcome, as were we on his behalf.


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