Six Figure Damages Sum for Delay in Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolus

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Sunday, November 20th, 2016
Mrs L was 52 years of age when she attended A&E complaining of pain in the left side of her neck, left leg and shoulder. She underwent a blood test which was reported as showing an elevated level of blood coagulation. It was thought that Mrs L may be suffering from a pulmonary embolus secondary to a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). The doctor organised a computerised tomographic pulmonary angiogram (CTPA) and an ultrasound of Mrs L's lower limbs. The CTPA was reported as negative for pulmonary embolus

Mrs L was 52 years of age when she attended A&E complaining of pain in the left side of her neck, left leg and shoulder. She underwent a blood test which was reported as showing an elevated level of blood coagulation. It was thought that Mrs L may be suffering from a pulmonary embolus secondary to a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). The doctor organised a computerised tomographic pulmonary angiogram (CTPA) and an ultrasound of Mrs L’s lower limbs. The CTPA was reported as negative for pulmonary embolus so Mrs L was discharged with advice to return if she suffered shortness of breath or chest pain.

Approximately 10 months later Mrs L was suffering from shortness of breath on walking and it was also painful for her to breath. She attended her GP on several occasions and mentioned her symptoms in Out Patient hospital appointments. It was thought that she may be suffering from mild asthma. Six months later Mrs L returned to A&E complaining of shortness of breath and right calf pain. A CTG pulmonary angiogram was undertaken which confirmed the presence of presence of pulmonary emboli.

Mr L was treated with anti-clotting medication and underwent right heart catheterisation surgery. However despite these measures she developed pulmonary hypertension – a serious and permanent condition.

Mrs L was informed that her original CTPA when she originally presented in A&E, 18 months earlier, was incorrectly interpreted and that she had been suffering from untreated pulmonary embolus all this time.

At the commencement of our investigations into this claim the Defendant Hospital Trust admitted a delay in diagnosis of pulmonary embolus and that as a result of this Mrs L had gone on to develop pulmonary hypertension. Receiving a full admission of liability at such an early stage in the case is quite unusual and in this case it was sadly short lived because once medical expert evidence had been obtained Mrs L’s condition and prognosis, the Hospital Trust retracted the admission of liability. It appears that once the full extent of the damage caused to Mrs L became apparent the Hospital Trust decided not to offer proper compensation. This was a very unpleasant tactic and utterly devastating for Mrs L.

We attempted to bar the Defendant from reneging on its original admission of liability but the court permitted the retraction because the Defendant’s admission was not made in response to a formal Letter of Claim. A protracted course of litigation then ensued until the Defendant Hospital Trust finally agreed to pay Mrs L a substantial six figure sum of damages one month before the trial was due to take place.

Mrs L solicitor, Partner Madeline Seibert comments "I am very pleased that in the end Mrs L was properly compensated for what was a clear and admitted failing in care. With the correct diagnosis and treatment eighteen months earlier Mrs L would not have developed her serious and debilitating condition of pulmonary hypertension and this was recognised by the Defendant Trust at the very outset of the case. However the case highlights how complex litigation can be. Even when you think that the battle for justice has been won a case can change shape and you are ten steps back".

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