When making a claim for medical negligence, it is important to be aware of the relevant case law pertaining to your case. Case law is made by judges presiding over a particular case and represents the official opinion of the court. When a case comes before the court relevant laws, regulations and statutes will be used, and the judge will also refer to any precedents that have been set in past cases to come before the court – which is where case law comes in. The court doesn’t necessarily have to use case law as a precedent, but it can often be used to help settle similar cases. There are many important case law precedents for personal injury claims which we have listed below.
The Defendant GP wrongly diagnosed the Claimant with colic when in fact he was suffering from meningitis. As a result of the misdiagnosis, the Claimant suffered from mental and physical disabilities. The Claimant brought an action against the Defendant GP in clinical negligence. At first instance this claim failed. Owen J had found that whilst the Claimant would have avoided being disabled if he had been referred to hospital on the day on which he was examined by his GP, the misdiagnosis or failure to refer the Claimant was not negligent. Owen J relied on the Defendant GP's notes at that time. It was common ground between medical experts that if the notes kept by the GP were accurate and in contrast to the account presented by the Claimant's mother then the GP was not in breach of their duty. The Court of Appeal dismissed the Claimants appeal on the basis that Owen J had not made an error in relying upon the GP's records. Court: Court of Appeal (Civil Division) (England & Wales)
In this case the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal that was presented by a GP against a decision for a judgment for the respondent who was a patient that had brought a medical negligence claim for damages due to delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. It was the patient's case that she had a consultation with the appellant GP back in 2006. During this consultation, the GP had examined her breast and incorrectly Diagnosed the patient, stating that it was a blocked milk duct; this then delayed the diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. The GP denied that any such consultation had taken place. This was on the grounds that there were no notes relating to this consultation, and had she seen the lump in question, she would have referred the patient to a breast clinic. The Court of Appeal decided that the Judge was entitled to prefer the evidence of the patient as to whether the consultation had taken place and at which the GP had misdiagnosed the lump. In particular, the Court of Appeal held that in deciding the matter of the truthfulness of both witnesses, it was open to the Judge to accept part of such witness' evidence and reject other parts. Court: Court of Appeal (Civil Division) (England & Wales)
This case involved a claim for damages for alleged professional negligence brought by the Claimant against the Defendants. This case was dismissed by J Holroyde. The Claimant alleged that the Defendants' hospital staff had failed in their duty to identify or to treat a Group B Streptococcus infection. This infection was carried by the Claimant's mother at birth and which had in turn caused the Claimants brain damage. Holroyde J held that the probable cause of the Claimant's brain damage could not be identified. Holroyde J went further and held that the care and treatment of the Claimant would not or should not have been any different even if the Defendant's staff had identified the infection that was carried by her mother. Court: High Court (Queen's Bench Division) (England & Wales)
In this case Judge Stockdale QC, sitting as deputy High Court judge, granted the Defendant hospital trust a summary judgment in regard to all outstanding issues in the underlying clinical negligence claim that was brought against it. Judgment by consent had been entered in regard to part of the claim due to an admission of a breach of duty of care in a partial sense. However, summary judgment was entered in regard to other more discrete but serious allegations of breach of duty. Including, the surgery had been carried out without the Claimants consent and was barbaric, (on the grounds that they did not have real prospects of success). The original expert that was appointed in support of the Claimant's case later withdrew, and due to the terms of a Court Order, the Claimant was barred from relying on new expert evidence as he had failed to obtain such expert evidence by the set date. Court: High Court (Queen's Bench Division) (England & Wales)
In this case, Coulson J decided to dismiss the Claimant's claim for damages that was brought against the Defendant NHS trust. The Claimant in this case alleged that he had received negligent treatment when he was admitted into one of the trusts hospitals. It was held by Coulson J that the Defendant had failed to diagnose the claimant with Cauda Equina Syndrome ('CES') and thus did not request an urgent MRI. When looking at the evidence, Coulson J found that had the MRI scan been undertaken earlier, emergency surgery could have been performed around 48 hours earlier than it had been. However, the surgery was performed and was unsuccessful and the claimant was left with no sensation below the waist. Based upon the majority of the expert’s opinion, Coulson J found that had the surgery been carried out 48 hours prior, that on a balance of probabilities the claimant's prospects of making a recovery were less than 50%. Taking into account the expert evidence, that the swift onset of CES and deterioration in the claimant's condition reduced his prospects of recovery even further, Coulson J found that the claimant had failed to establish causation. Court: High Court (Queen's Bench Division) (England & Wales)
This matter concerned a preliminary issue of fact in a clinical negligence claim. Mackay J was responsible for making a preliminary factual finding in regard to what had occurred during a consultation by the Claimant patient with the Defendant general practitioner concerning a lump in his groin, which turned out to be a malignant melanoma. In deciding the preliminary issue of fact, Mackay J found that it was more likely than not that that the Defendant had asked the Claimant why he was concerned about the growth on his groin, and the Claimant had responded, (with words to the effect) that it had grown, itched and bled and the Defendant then diagnosed it as a sebhorrhoeic wart. Court: High Court (Queen's Bench Division) (England & Wales)