£5,200,000 awarded for a spinal abscess

Compensation of £5,200,000 was awarded to a male Claimant after a hospital failed to diagnose a spinal abscess.

Circumstances

The Claimant was 16 and began to suffer with pain in his back. Having taken painkillers for six days the pain was no better. He therefore attended accident and emergency at the Defendant's hospital.

The claimant was seen in triage but was then sent home with more painkillers having been diagnosed with a simple muscle strain. On returning home his condition did not improve and he began to feel unwell. He therefore made an appointment with his GP who provided him with a referral letter to take back to the hospital with him.

Three days after first visiting the hospital the Claimant returned and blood tests were taken. On this occasion he did get to see a doctor who noted that there was "no distal neurology". He was sent home for a second time and told to visit his GP if he continued to be in pain.

Having returned home the Claimant continued to suffer with the pain and by late evening he was unable to move. He therefore attended the hospital once more but was again sent home having not had a proper examination. By this point the Claimant was struggling to walk.

The Claimant attended the hospital for a fourth time two days later complaining of breathlessness and paralysis of his arms and legs. On this occasion he was examined properly and investigations were carried out. These showed an extensive epidural abscess which was immediately operated on. Unfortunately there was a lot of infected fluid and the Claimant was rendered a tetraplegic.

Prior to the accident the Claimant had been a fit young man but he could now no longer feel or move his legs. He also had to manage his bladder with a sheath and leg bag and suffered severe spasms. He was able to use his right hand and arm to some degree but his confidence was affected and he required cognitive behaviour therapy.

The Claimant alleged that the Defendant Trust had been negligent in not diagnosing the spinal abscess. They had not carried out any proper examinations nor taken into consideration the level of pain that he was suffering.

Had the necessary neurological examination taken place and the relevant scans carried out the abscess would have been diagnosed sooner, the surgery would have been successful and a full recovery would have been made.

Liability was admitted by the Defendant and they agreed that the surgery should have taken place much sooner. However, they did not agree that this would have guaranteed a full recovery.

Conclusion

An out of settlement was agreed with total damages being £5,200,000. Of this it was estimated that £240,000 was in respect of pain, suffering and loss of amenity.