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Tom Gibson appears in successful ‘secondary victim’ psychiatric injury claims

Tom Gibson appeared recently in two successful ‘secondary victim’ psychiatric injury claims brought by the bereaved parents of patients who died in hospital.

In the first case, a newborn died shortly after birth, following unsuccessful resuscitation attempts in the operating theatre, after the mother’s labour had been managed negligently. The baby’s father brought a secondary victim psychiatric injury claim. He claimed that he had suffered a depressive adjustment disorder as a result of witnessing his baby’s resuscitation attempts and death.

The defendant hospital trust denied, in its defence, that the claimant father was entitled to recover damages for psychiatric injury as a ‘secondary victim’. However the claim was settled successfully, in autumn 2017, after case management directions had been set towards a trial.

In the second case, two parents witnessed their adult daughter’s respiratory arrest in hospital, and the crash team’s emergency resuscitation attempts, following negligent medical treatment. Their daughter never regained consciousness and died a few days later.

Both parents brought secondary victim claims for psychiatric injury.

They claimed they had both suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing their daughter’s arrest and emergency resuscitation. While the defendant hospital trust denied liability in its letter of response, both parents’ claims were settled successfully in early 2018, before proceedings were served.

These cases both followed the High Court’s decision in RE, LE and DE v Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 824 (QB), where a claimant grandmother’s secondary victim claim succeeded after she had witnessed her granddaughter’s traumatic (and negligently managed) birth.

That case in turn followed the Court of Appeal’s recent summary of the law in this area in Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v Ronayne [2015] EWCA Civ 588 – plus a host of other recent cases where defendant hospitals successfully defended secondary victim claims, in a medical negligence context, at trial. See e.g. Wild v Southend University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2014] EWHC 4053 (QB), Brock v Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust [2014] EWHC 4244 (QB), Shorter v Surry & Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust [2015] EWHC 614 (QB), Owers v Medway NHS Foundation Trust [2015] EWHC 2363 (QB), and Wells v University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust [2015] EWHC 2376 (QB)).

These two settlements illustrate that, although the law in this area is complicated, appropriate claims can still succeed.

Tom was instructed by Claudia Hillemand and Flora Midgley at Bolt Burdon Kemp (in the first case) and by Katrina Taylor at Pryers Solicitors (in the second case).

News 21 Mar, 2018


Tom Gibson

Call: 2010

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