Blake Lapthorn Secures Settlement For Client In Clinical Negligence Case Against Two Hospitals

Blake Lapthorn, one of the leading law firms in the UK, is pleased to announce that on 8 June 2010 in the High Court in Bristol, His Honour Judge Rutherford approved the settlement of £75,000 damages, which included formal apologies by the hospitals, Weston and Frenchay, for the clinical negligence claim brought on behalf of Lee Nicholls.

Online PR News – 16-June-2010 – – Blake Lapthorn, one of the leading law firms in the UK, is pleased to announce that on 8 June 2010 in the High Court in Bristol, His Honour Judge Rutherford approved the settlement of £75,000 damages, which included formal apologies by the hospitals, Weston and Frenchay, for the clinical negligence claim brought on behalf of Lee Nicholls.

Lee passed away on 29 March 2005 at the age of 16 as a result of a brain haemorrhage caused by an untreated aneurysm of a blood vessel. The case was brought by his mother, Ms Kate Nicholls, on behalf of Lee and also for his daughter, E, who was unborn at the time of Lee’s death. The majority of the awarded damages will be kept in a fund at court for E.

In November 2004 Lee suffered from a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage and was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary where he was treated by the radiological technique of coiling. The treatment appeared to have been successful when Lee was followed up in 2005 as an outpatient and he returned to Weston College where he was studying for a National Diploma in Animal Care. On 4 March 2005 Lee was admitted to Weston Hospital with a headache and vomiting but he was diagnosed with viral meningitis. A CT brain scan and lumbar puncture were preformed. The scan was reported by a general radiologist but not by a specialist neuroradiologist and the lumbar puncture sample was due to be tested further but was lost and therefore never reported. Nor was Lee transferred to the expert neurosurgery unit at Frenchay Hospital and he was discharged home three days later still complaining of headaches and vomiting.

On 14 March Ms Nicholls took Lee to his GP because of his headaches and vomiting and she chased up the out-patient appointment at Weston Hospital. The following day, Ms Nicholls took Lee to Frenchay Hospital for a further neurosurgical review and he had another CT brain scan. Lee was seen by the neurosurgical specialist registrar and was told that the CT scan was normal and was sent home. The registrar was asked by the consultant to follow up the outcome of the investigations at Weston Hospital but that never happened. Lee’s symptoms of headaches and vomiting continued.

On 26 March he collapsed at home and was taken to Frenchay Hospital. A further CT scan was undertaken and also a lumbar puncture and this time sub-arachnoid haemorrhage was diagnosed. On 29 March Lee collapsed, having suffered a fatal re-bleed from the aneurysm, and passed away later that day.

A post mortem demonstrated that the aneurysm had recurred and that was the cause of the fatal sub-arachnoid haemorrhage. Lee’s death was the subject of an investigation by HM Coroner for North Somerset, Mr Brian Whitehouse. On 15 January 2009 Mr Whitehouse gave his verdict concluding that whilst Lee had died as a result of natural causes, neglect at Weston General Hospital and Frenchay Hospital had contributed to his death. Mr Whitehouse said: “The combination of errors and omissions including the failure to transfer Lee [to the specialist unit at Frenchay Hospital], the under-estimation of his condition and the failure to carry out the right tests significantly contributed to Lee's death. If it had not been for these failures, Lee would have survived or at least his life would have been prolonged.”

In spite of the Coroner’s findings the claim remained contested by the hospitals and Ms Nicholls commenced civil proceedings in negligence which were transferred to the High Court. The trial was due to take place at the beginning of June 2010 and various awards for damage were sought including: Lee’s pain and suffering during his final illness; on behalf of the infant, E, in recognition of the loss of her father’s role in her upbringing and the loss of care and support from him; and on behalf of Ms Nicholls, for the bereavement and the effects of Lee’s death on her.

Ms Nicholls said: “For me this has always been a search for justice for Lee. I still feel very angry and badly let down by the hospitals, which is why I had to insist upon receiving formal written apologies with any settlement. The hospitals have now accepted on the standard of proof in the civil Courts that Lee’s life would have been saved. No one can know with any certainty how good his functioning would have been after more neurosurgery but I know that he would have been a kind and loving father if he had been given that chance. Lee’s death has left a huge gap in our family and it's one which can never be filled.”

John White, head of Blake Lapthorn's Clinical Negligence team, and the solicitor who acted for Ms Nicholls, said: “I was delighted that the Coroner undertook such a thorough and detailed investigation and that he was so firm in his findings. It was therefore disappointing that the hospitals contested the civil proceedings to such a late stage before finally apologies were forthcoming. Kate’s focus at all times has been on finding the explanation as to what went wrong with Lee’s treatment and seeking justice for him. Nothing can replace his tragic loss at such a young age but I do now hope that the whole family will be able to feel some comfort from the answers we have found."

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Contact:

Daniel Baber, PR Manager
Tel: 020 7814 5489 or 07771 930 084
Email: daniel.baber@bllaw.co.uk

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Daniel Baber
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020 7814 5489