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Failure to diagnose and treat klebsiella infection in spine resulting partial paralysis

Our 86-year-old client received £700,000 in compensation after paralysis

In February 2020, Joy, who was almost 83 years old, had a fall at home and experienced excruciating back pain. She attended at hospital but was discharged home with the diagnosis of “a soft tissue injury”. She re-attended at the hospital in early March 2020 and an x-ray scan revealed a new wedge fracture. No further treatment was offered to her.

By April 2020, she was re-admitted with severe back pain and lower limb neurological deficit. Spinal surgery was considered, after an MRI scan, but it did not take place as Joy was said to be unable to consent to the risks of surgery. Raised inflammatory markers were noted, but no appropriate antibiotic treatment was commenced. She was eventually diagnosed with a klebsiella infection in the spine in June 2020. By this stage, she was advised that spinal surgery was unlikely to improve her outcome, and so she decided against surgery.

Joy was fully active and independent prior to her fall and injuries. As result of the delay in diagnosis and treatment, Joy suffered from a spinal cord injury causing an incomplete paralysis.

Lesley Herbertson, Partner in the Clinical Negligence team at Hugh James, acted on Joy’s behalf and made a claim for her injuries and associated losses against the Hospital Trust. The Claimant’s medical experts were critical of the failure to take note of the raised inflammatory markers in the context of exquisite back pain and the possibility that there was an infective process in the spine.

Furthermore, the treating doctors had inappropriately found reasons not to perform spinal surgery in April 2020, when, if necessary, they could have asked for Joy’s family’s input on the decision-making to ensure that they acted in Joy’s best interests. It was the Claimant’s case that if, in April 2020, spinal surgery had been performed to decompress and stabilise her spine, and if adequate antibiotics were administered, she would have made a near total recovery from her injuries.

When Joy was discharged home, she was wheelchair bound due to her neurological condition. With extensive physiotherapy and massive effort on her part, she is now able to walk short distance indoors with support. She continues to heavily rely on her family and carers to meet all of her daily needs.

Due to Joy’s age, every effort was made to expedite matters with a view to achieve an early settlement for her. The Defendant denied liability throughout the process but was willing to engage in negotiations on a without prejudice basis. Joy’s case was concluded after a full-day Joint Settlement Meeting. She recovered compensation in the sum of £700,000, which reflects the extent of her ongoing her pain and suffering and the funds needed to pay for care, house adaptations, and ongoing therapy needs.

Lesley Herbertson, Partner in the Clinical Negligence team at Hugh James, said:

“It was a pleasure to act on behalf of Joy, who’s determination to make as much of a recovery as possible was awe inspiring. We were delighted to achieve a very good settlement on her behalf, just over 3 years after she first instructed us. Despite maintaining a denial of liability, the Defendant Trust did take a sensitive and pragmatic approach, which was appreciated and meant that Joy received sufficient funds, allowing her to enjoy a better quality of life, for her remaining years.”

* The names and identifying details of the client have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

Author bio

Lesley Herbertson


Lesley Herbertson is a Partner at Hugh James and a leading medical negligence solicitor with over 30 years’ experience in dealing with catastrophic and serious injury medical negligence cases.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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