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Over £3 million secured in compensation for man left paralysed following late diagnosis of spinal abscess

Delay in diagnosing the spinal abscess left elderly man permanently injured and wheelchair-bound. At the time, when Terry* developed symptoms in 2017, he was a fit and active man. He enjoyed countryside walks, gardening and socialising with his family and friends.

In August 2017, Terry developed severe back pain. Investigations were undertaken and reported on the incorrect assumption that Terry had a history of prostate cancer, despite negative biopsy results, and therefore a differential diagnosis of discitis was not acted upon at an early stage. There were further delays by the hospital in performing urgent bone scanning and an MRI, the results of which were not made available to doctors before forming a treatment plan.

Terry was not commenced on antibiotics until November 2017. His condition continued to deteriorate and he eventually underwent spinal surgery in December 2017. He suffered a stroke to the spinal cord and is now wheelchair dependent.

Terry’s injuries are permanent and profound. He has pain, dysfunction of the bladder and bowel, sexual impairment, increased abdominal pain and sensitivity and reduced skin integrity resulting in the development of pressure sores. He requires life-long care, case management, equipment, therapies and single storey accommodation.

Helen Dolan, Partner in the Clinical Negligence Team and Solicitor Kelly Charlton acted on Terry’s behalf and successfully argued, with appropriate care, his discitis would have been diagnosed sooner, he would have avoided surgery and his associated paraplegia. Judgment was entered on Terry’s behalf in April 2021.

Voluntary interim payments made by the Defendant were used to fund input from a Case Manager, a treating team of therapists (including physiotherapy and occupational therapy) and a state of the art inpatient rehabilitation programme at STEPS Sheffield. Terry was supported by the team in finding and purchasing a suitable property which could be adapted.

Despite a lack of agreement between the parties as to Terry’s life expectancy, ongoing care needs and reasonable adaptation costs in the current volatile building market, the parties were able to conduct negotiations in February 2022 at a settlement meeting and Terry’s claim was compromised in the sum of £3.5 million pounds.

Terry is also at an increased risk of syrinx formation; an award for provisional damages on his behalf was agreed which will allow him to return to Court to seek additional compensation should his condition deteriorate as a result of further spinal cord complications.

Helen Dolan, Partner and in the Clinical Negligence department, commented:

Compensation can never really put someone back in the position they were in before the life changing event occurred – but getting the best you can out of the litigation process and maximising an award at least provides reassurance that the Claimant has access to good quality housing, rehab and care for the rest of his life.

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

Author bio

Helen Dolan


Helen Dolan is Joint Head of the Manchester Office and Head of the Clinical Negligence team. Helen specialises in high value complex secondary brain injury, spinal cord injury (including cauda equina syndrome), birth injury, cerebral palsy and wrongful birth cases, and also has extensive experience of orthopaedic and surgical 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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