Jonathan Zimmern represented Mr Hunt in a claim for damages following a negligently performed anal fistulotomy in July 2008. Mr Hunt suffered from incontinence following the procedure and has since had to have his rectum removed.
Before the operation, Mr Hunt worked as a specialist machine demolition operator, only one of six people in the UK qualified to use certain machinery. In April 2008, he complained of back pain while operating one of the machines, which became so bad over the following weeks he had to stop work altogether. His GP prescribed painkillers but he was eventually referred to the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, where he was diagnosed with a very large perianal abscess.
He underwent an operation to drain the abscess but continued to feel so ill that surgeons decided on a fistulotomy to remove the infected tissue in his sphincter in late July 2008.
Soon afterwards, he began to experience incontinence and anal pain. Advice from doctors at the Queen's Medical Centre was to wait for things to heal. When things didn't improve, an MRI showed that his entire anal sphincter had been irreversibly damaged during the procedure in July. Doctors attempted several more operations to reduce the pain and help with the incontinence but none helped and Mr Hunt has now been left with a permanent colostomy bag. He has never been able to go back to work.
Preparing the case, Mr Zimmern asked for comment from a colorectal surgeon, radiologist, orthopaedic surgeon and psychiatrist on the treatment Mr Hunt received. They asserted that the upper part of Mr Hunt's internal anal sphincter had been damaged by the initial perianal abscess but that the incontinence was caused when the surgeon wrongly cut the remaining part of the sphincter during the July operation. The Trust denied liability throughout and refused to accept the Claimant's offer to settle the claim, or make any attempts to negotiate a settlement.
The case therefore proceeded to a two-day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice on 8 December 2015. The Trust argued that the damage to the internal anal sphincter occurred after the operation in July 2008 as a result of severe residual sepsis, which had completely resolved by the time of the MRI scan some months later.
The Judge found this explanation improbable. Mrs Justice Patterson found that, on the balance of probabilities, the damage sustained to the internal anal sphincter causing Mr Hunt's incontinence occurred during the operation in July 2008. She found that the surgeon cut the lower half of the sphincter without ascertain the pre-existing damage to the upper half. Mr Hunt was subsequently awarded compensation totalling almost £700,000.
Mrs Justice Patterson also noted after the judgement that a Part 36 offer had been made by Mr Hunt which he had beaten. This meant that Mr Hunt was awarded an additional £57,500 in respect of his damages and that we recovered indemnity costs.
Following the trial, Mr Hunt said:
"I am very relieved this is over. I have had to completely change the way I manage my life following the surgery to remove the abscess. It's unlikely I'll be able to go back to work. I would like to thank Jonathan. His excellent work won my case."
Jonathan Zimmern said:
"I'm very pleased that this success at trial should now provide Mr Hunt with some relief from his terrible suffering that has gone on for years. There is no turning back the clock but hopefully he can now look forward with a modicum of confidence and hope."
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