Higgs secures £38k after scan cancellation error

28 July 2022

Higgs LLP secured almost £40,000 for a client after a health professional cancelled a CT scan that could have given an earlier diagnosis of a severe triad fracture.

Jenny Tetlow, Senior Associate in the Higgs NHS negligence team, successfully secured £38,000 for the client, who suffered a prolonged inability to complete his job and an acceleration of a pre-existing condition as a result of the defendant’s error.

Higgs’ client, who worked as a blacksmith, fell from his motorcycle and subsequently suffered from severe pain and an inability to move his left elbow.

X-rays showed a definite displaced fracture and at a fracture clinic appointment a CT scan was arranged, and expert opinion sought regarding the client’s injuries.

Unfortunately, after reviewing the X-rays, the expert cancelled the CT scan and recommended conservative treatment.

Jenny explained: “Upon further review around six weeks later when our client was still suffering from severe pain, it was discovered that he had a terrible triad fracture of the left elbow and subsequently had to undergo two rounds of surgery and physiotherapy.

“However, even after being discharged from physiotherapy, our client was advised that he would always have long-term problems with heavy lifting.”

After falling from his motorcycle in June 2018, this delay in diagnosis and subsequent surgery resulted in the client being unable to return to work until November 2018, and by August 2019 he was still only on light duties.

Expert opinion was obtained on behalf of the client from a Consultant Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgeon.

The expert confirmed that the defendant’s decision to cancel the CT scan and failure to acknowledge the apparent coronoid fracture on the X-ray amounted to a breach of duty that had resulted in a delay in the client undergoing the required treatment.

Jenny added: “Instructing solicitors subsequently sent a Letter of Claim on behalf of our client, in line with the expert’s opinion that had our client undergone surgical reconstruction sooner, then, on the balance of probabilities, our client would have had a speedier and better outcome. 

“This would have resulted in better mobility in his left elbow and reduced the severity of our client’s heterotopic ossification, which limited our client’s ability to move his arm and caused him severe pain.

“In their Letter of Response, the defendant admitted they had breached their duty of care to our client by cancelling the CT scan. The defendant also admitted that had this not been cancelled, our client’s terrible triad fracture would have been diagnosed sooner and he would have undergone surgery within one to two weeks of this diagnosis.”

Despite the defendant stating that the client would have developed heterotopic ossification regardless of their negligence, they conceded that the delay in diagnosis had resulted in this developing to a worsened degree.

Consequently, instructing solicitors were invited to forward Condition and Prognosis evidence and a Schedule of Loss on behalf of the client.

Expert Condition and Prognosis evidence sought on behalf of the client confirmed that it was likely that within 10 years of the injury the client would be unable to use his left elbow and left arm for strenuous or overhead activities, mainly as a result of the heterotopic ossification.

Although the expert acknowledged that the client would have developed heterotopic ossification in the absence of any negligence, he confirmed that the client’s difficulties arising from the heterotopic ossification had been accelerated by 5 years as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty.

The expert opined that the client would be unable to function within his current role as a blacksmith beyond light duties and advised re-training to a more sedentary occupation.  In addition, the client was now unable to enjoy previous hobbies such as motorcycling and playing an instrument as this caused him significant pain and discomfort.

Finally, it was also recorded that the client would need a total elbow replacement in the future and had developed significant arthritic wear in his left elbow.

Jenny concluded: “Consequently, assessing the impact of the admitted negligence was challenging.

“Careful consideration had to be given to the condition our client would have found himself in had the negligence not occurred, given the inability to use his left elbow for strenuous or overhead activities would have developed in any event following the accident within a likely timeframe of 15 years.

“Negotiations regarding the value of the claim took place, whilst avoiding proceeding to trial and eventually the matter settled in our client’s favour for £38,000.”

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