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Spinal cord injury case settles for nearly £2m after injury during surgery

Medical negligence lawyer secures significant compensation for client who awoke paralysed after surgery

Spinal injury claim lawyers

26 September 2014

A 41 year old who suffered a severe spinal cord injury has settled a complex and challenging case for almost £2,000,000.  

In 2002, the claimant known only as “Lesley” was admitted to hospital for investigations into mild neurological symptoms in both arms and legs.  An MRI scan revealed subluxation (when one of the vertebrae in the spine moves out of place) of C1/C2 and a precariously thin spinal cord.

Lesley underwent surgery but awoke paralysed, having sustained a severe spinal cord injury during the procedure. 

Lesley then embarked on rehabilitation for several years and is currently able to shuffle a few steps with a frame, but for most of the time uses a motorised wheelchair.  Lesley is unable to work, requires round the clock care and experiences significant pain. 

Lesley was unaware of the three year time limit for bringing a negligence claim and approached Leigh Day after the period had elapsed.  However, Lesley argued that the claim could still be brought because the details of the injury, and the fact that it was permanent, were not known until later.  Lesley also had arguments in support of the Court using its discretion under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980 to allow the claim to proceed out of time. 

Proceedings were issued urgently and after receiving expert evidence, Lesley was able to bring a claim arguing that there should have been monitoring of the spinal cord signal before and during the operation.  Further, the evidence was such that positioning for the operation (face down) should have been carried out before putting the patient to sleep.  It was argued that one or both of these precautions would have alerted the surgeons to the cord being compromised and the problem would have been rectified before damage was caused.  

Lesley had lived in an adapted part of the family home in a remote small village for 10 years until an interim payment enabled relocation to a city centre.  In the city, Lesley is closer to vital therapies and medical teams and has been able to rebuild a life. 

The amount of compensation the Trust should pay Lesley was agreed at a settlement meeting approximately two months before trial.  Lesley is now looking forward to purchasing a property large enough to house a carer and the equipment needed to allow a more independent life.  

Lesley is excited about getting on with life, leaving the litigation behind and obtaining the treatment and therapies needed. 

Ellen Parry, from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day who represented Lesley, said;

“There is no escaping the fact that Lesley’s life was turned upside down by this.  Lesley will continue to experience significant pain and no amount of compensation can ever take away the severity of the injury. 

“However, knowing that Lesley will at least (and at last) have suitable accommodation and provision for care and therapy is a great relief and we are delighted to have achieved a good resolution.”

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