Settlement for teen after hospital admits breach of duty

15 November 2022

Our specialist medical negligence team has secured a £50,000 settlement for a teenage girl who suffered pain and treatment delays for a hip problem.

Liz Hickman, a Legal Director in the medical negligence team, led the case against a hospital Trust.

“Clinical negligence cases are highly complex but for the people affected they are often hugely emotional because of the physical and mental toll they suffer as a result of the lack of care from medical professionals,” she said. “We’re pleased this case was settled following a letter of claim after this young woman was failed by medical staff.”

The case began in 2017, when our client was just 11 years old. She visited her GP because of pains in her right knee and while an examination and blood tests showed no cause for concern, she returned almost a month later with the same pain and an onset of lower thigh pain on the same side.

Her family doctor suggested it could be arthritic and told her to return if the pain continued. When she visited her GP again in September 2017, she was referred to a specialist as a potential arthritis case.

Just a week later, however, she was rushed by her parents to the accident and emergency department because she was in severe pain and was unable to walk or straighten her leg.

While there, her knee was examined and x-rayed, but no other part of her leg or hip was examined – something the Trust later admitted should have been carried out.

The girl was referred for physiotherapy, where the doctor arranged for a pelvic x-ray.

This revealed she was suffering from slipped upper femoral epiphysis, a hip condition that occurs in teens, which caused part of her thigh bone connecting to her hip to slip backwards.

She underwent an emergency operation the following day and pins were inserted into her right hip, but the procedure had to be repeated just 24 hours later to correct the position of the pins.

Although her condition had improved by January 2018, and she was able to weight bear again, doctors decided to pin her left hip to prevent the same problem occurring on the other side.

Following a letter of claim from our medical negligence team, the defendant admitted breach of duty by failing to x-ray the girl’s right hip when she attended A&E. It conceded that if doctors had correctly diagnosed her medical condition at that time, she would have been admitted as an emergency and undergone the same operation four weeks earlier.

The Trust also agreed our client was wrongly referred to a physiotherapist because she should not have walked on her right leg at all.

Because of the month of avoidable pain and suffering, the teenager has an increased risk of developing pain and arthritis in the hip and the delay for treatment means she is likely to need a hip replacement 10–15 years earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

The £50,000 settlement includes damages for her potential disadvantage in the labour market in the future, as well as for the pain she suffered while awaiting diagnosis and treatment.

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