Hospital settles for six-figure sum after failing to diagnose fatal aneurysm

3rd January 2018 by

Healys Medical Negligence team acted on behalf of PF, the partner of Mr. Stephen Palmer, in relation to her own dependency claim brought under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. The claim was against the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

On the 12th July 2013, Stephen Palmer developed sudden and severe right groin pain. In the subsequent hours this pain worsened and also spread to involve his lower back.

Due to the severity and suddenness of his pain, an ambulance was called to his home and he was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital and admitted via the Accident & Emergency Department.

Unbeknown until post-mortem examination, Stephen was suffering the effects of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Sadly by the time Stephen had been transferred to surgery for emergency laparotomy surgery, he suddenly suffered cardiac arrest whilst in the theatre anaesthetic room and died after unsuccessful attempts at resuscitation.

The conclusion reached by the Coroner for Brighton & Hove in January 2015 was that Stephen died of an undiagnosed and untreated ruptured AAA and we argued that the standard of clinical care provided to Stephen whilst at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in July 2013 fell below the standard of care he was entitled to expect and that as a consequence, Stephen sadly lost the opportunity to have emergency surgical repair of the ruptured AAA which would probably have been successful.

We argued that there was a failure to obtain or to obtain promptly a CT scan that Stephen’s critical circumstances dictated was required. Had such a CT scan been available, then the need for urgent surgery to address the ruptured aneurysm would have been identified sooner and in the opinion of the medical expert, whom Healys instructed to assist with the case, had the surgery been carried out when it should have been, Stephen would have been alive today.

The Hospital’s lawyers for a long time denied responsibility for Stephen’s death in spite of the Coroner’s findings at the Inquest and also argued that even had Stephen been sent for a scan earlier, it was unlikely that he would have survived the surgery and would have died in any event.

Finally, after starting Court action against the Hospital Trust on behalf of Stephen’s long term partner, Healys was able to secure a six figure settlement in March 2016. Although compensation was never going to bring Stephen back, it did mean that the financial future of Stephen’s partner was secure.