Chapman v Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust

The High Court yesterday handed down judgment in a clinical negligence claim brought by the Claimant, Rosemary Chapman, against the Defendant, Mid & South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, finding that care and treatment for a spinal condition at Southend University Hospital was negligent.

Mrs Chapman had for many years suffered with lower back pain, caused by severe grade 2/3 spondylolisthesis. She was under the care of a pain management specialist at the Defendant’s hospital in Southend, who in 2009 and 2010 advised her that an operation was not necessary and would not improve her condition.

In March 2017 she was diagnosed with a prolapsed thoracic disc, undergoing surgery to remove that disc some 10 days later. It was Mrs Chapman’s case that there had been a delay of some 7 to 8 years in diagnosing and treating the prolapse, and that the delay in care and treatment resulted in the prolapse progressing, causing paraplegia (paralysis of the lower body).

The trial was heard by High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Hill. She considered witness evidence from the Claimant and members of her family and the Defendants clinicians: a Consultant pain management doctor and an Emergency Nurse Practitioner; and expert witnesses on behalf of both parties.

Having weighed up and considered all of the evidence heard at the Trial earlier this year, Mrs Justice Hill’s written judgment, released by the Court Service yesterday, found in favour of the Claimant. In particular, the judge found that:

  • The Defendant’s pain management doctor should have requested an updated MRI scan or carried out a full and proper neurological examination of the Claimant at an earlier date.
  • The Defendant’s doctor had not taken a proper history of the Claimant’s pain and symptoms nor carried out a proper examination at an earlier appointment in 2010, and he had inappropriately advised her in 2009 and 2010 that surgery would not help her condition.
  • In fact, as the Claimant was experiencing symptoms caused by the prolapse in 2009/2010, she should have been offered surgery at that time.
  • Had she been offered surgery, the Claimant would have chosen to proceed with this.
  • Although she would have continued to experience pain etc. caused by her pre-existing medical condition of spondylolisthesis, if the Claimant had undergone surgery for the prolapse in 2009/2010 she would have made a full recovery from the prolapse without any neurological injury and would not have gone on to develop paraplegia.

This was a medically complex case and the trial dealt only with the legal issue of liability, i.e. whether the care provided by the Defendant met an acceptable standard and whether any substandard care had caused the Claimant an injury. The Court found that the Defendant’s doctor had indeed provided negligent care and treatment causing an injury.

As the Trial addressed liability only, the Judge did not make an award of damages to the Claimant. The Court will now set a timetable for the compensation claim. The parties will proceed, no doubt, to try to resolve the question as to the value of the claim between them and reach a settlement but if they are unable to do so, they will return to Court for a determination of how much compensation the Claimant should receive for her injuries and losses.

If you believe that you or your loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, contact us free of charge to find out whether you may have a claim. RHL Solicitors’s experienced solicitors act for the victims of medical negligence, conducting thorough and rigorous clinical negligence investigations with the intention of establishing liability and recovering compensation. The expert reports we disclose to the Defendant during the claim process can also help to make a difference and to improve future care. To find out more about pursuing a claim under a ‘No Win No Fee’ agreement, please telephone our expert lawyers on 0344 7768328 and speak to a member of our specialist medical negligence team today.