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James Counsell QC successfully defends NHS Foundation Trust in high value spinal injury case

James Counsell QC has successfully defended Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in a complex spinal injury case, involving a young woman who suffered a serious spinal injury in a road traffic accident in October 2011, after which she was taken to the Trust’s hospital.

She subsequently brought successful proceedings against the negligent driver of the car which collided with the car in which she was a back seat passenger, wearing a lap seat belt, and claimed damages for her injuries which included paraplegia. That claim was settled by the motorist’s insurers in March 2015 for a lump sum payment of £3 million, together with a very substantial periodical payment, making a total claim, capitalised at current rates, given her age, of in the region of an estimated £15 million.

The insurers first brought contribution proceedings against the other driver but that claim failed at trial in February 2014 and they then sought to blame the Trust for allegedly negligent care and treatment whilst she was a patient in hospital.

At the hearing before Garnham J, commencing on 20 May 2019, the Court heard that the young woman, known as XXX, had suffered a very serious spinal Chance fracture dislocation of the thoracic spine, such that one of the facets of the spine dislocated and then locked out of position causing damage to the spinal cord. It was the Trust’s case that the damage was done at the time of the Road Traffic Accident (RTA) and that, although she showed signs of being able to move her lower limbs for a couple of hours after the accident, nothing that happened in hospital made or could have made any difference to the tragic outcome of the motorist’s negligent driving. Breach of duty was also denied.

In deciding for the trust, Garnham J preferred the evidence of all four experts called by the Trust (Accident & Emergency, neuro-radiology, and two spinal experts) and was particularly critical of the spinal surgeon called by the Claimant. He found that the cause of the paralysis was the road traffic accident.

James Counsell, QC was instructed by Bevan Brittan, Bristol, for NHSR, on behalf of the Trust. The Judge gave judgment for the Trust on 26 June 2019, dismissed the claim and ordered that the Claimant motorist should pay the costs.

News 10 Jul, 2019

Authors

James Counsell QC

Call: 1984 Silk: 2017

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