Clinical Negligence lawyer resolves complex case

28th July 2010

A lawyer from Higgs & Sons' highly regarded clinical negligence department has successfully represented a local man against Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Clare Langford, a specialist clinical negligence lawyer, has represented Mr Tim Joplin for the last six years.

Mr Joplin, an artist and former lecturer at Dudley College, says that his case should be a warning to in-patients to be vigilant when in hospital and to complain loud and clear if they have any concerns.  Dudley-based Mr Joplin has now received a large six figure sum of compensation from Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust for a delay in treating his medical condition resulting in him being severely disabled.

Mr Joplin's case began in 2003 when he went to Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, complaining of extreme neck and shoulder pain. The doctors initially thought the symptoms were due to Mr Joplin having pulled a muscle while carrying out DIY. After five days in Russells Hall, despite rapidly worsening symptoms and onset of paralysis, no diagnosis was made or effective treatment started.

Mr Joplin was eventually transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where after MRI investigation, he was diagnosed as suffering from a spinal abscess which was compressing his spinal cord. Mr Joplin underwent emergency surgery to drain the abscess but unfortunately was left permanently paralysed in all four limbs.

Speaking of his case, Mr Joplin said: "I firmly believe in the ideal of a National Health Service and the ideal is possible. The encounter I had at Russells Hall Hospital in March 2003 changed me from being a socially skilled individual and useful member of my family to complete dependency and in almost constant pain." 

"Numerous polite enquiries were made to the staff expressing concerns about my care and pointing out my deterioration but none of these were addressed. It is gratifying to know that eventually my complaints were upheld and that the Trust admits there was a delay in my condition being investigated and diagnosed, although no amount of financial compensation can buy me back my quality of life."

"I now want others to realise that they should not be complacent when seeking help from the NHS.  I am not aware of any changes put in place as a result of my case that would prevent similar mistakes being made in the future,  Therefore everyone should be vigilant when an in-patient and family and friends must be prepared to complain and complain again loud and clear if they have any concerns."

Clare Langford said: "This was a very complex clinical negligence claim. It was our case that the doctors failed to carry out sufficient investigations into the symptoms Mr Joplin was suffering. An MRI scan should have been performed at Russells Hall Hospital which would have revealed the spinal epidural abscess. Emergency surgery could then have been performed earlier before the permanent neurological damage was caused, and thus avoiding Mr Joplin being tetraplegic.

"A financial award can never fully compensate for the type of injury Mr Joplin has suffered but I hope it will go some way to assist and provide financial security for the future."

Mr Joplin has now received a letter of apology from Paula Clark, Chief Executive  of Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust.

Higgs & Sons' clinical negligence department is headed up by partner Liz Hickman and is based at the firm's new headquarters in Brierley Hill's Waterfront. To contact the team call 0845 111 5050.


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