On 22 October 2012 the Court approved a £1.25 million settlement in what was a hotly fought case. Samantha Critchley acted for J in the surgery negligence claim against the Whittington Hospital which settled less than two weeks before trial.
After developing appendicitis, J’s appendix was removed in October 2006. Her recovery was complicated by an infection and obstruction of the small bowel. A decision was taken to re-operate in November 2006. The purpose of the operation was explorative with a view to fashioning a stoma. Instead, of creating a stoma the surgeon performed complex surgery which involved removal of part of the bowel and two further incisions to different parts of the bowel, where there had been narrowing. The combined effect of the three procedures was to create three suture lines in the small bowel. In addition the surgeon inadvertently damaged the bowel during the operation which resulted in faecal material escaping into the abdominal cavity. These factors created a high risk that one or more of the suture lines would break down due to the hostile environment in which they were placed.
Post operatively the bowel sutures did break down and J became septic. The sepsis caused her to suffer a critical illness, hypotension, multi-organ failure and acid in the blood. In January 2007 J suffered a stroke which left her with brain damage, which effects her attention, memory, visual perception and verbal function. J also suffers from right hemiparesis which severely restricts the function of her right upper limb and her mobility and she suffers with a pain syndrome. As a result of her injuries J also became depressed. She is at risk of developing post-traumatic epilepsy.
At the time of the alleged negligence J was 37 years old. As a result of her injuries her employment was terminated and her former home was clearly unsuitable for her special needs. J has a close relationship with her sister and stepfather and they have provided her with the most devoted care.
Samantha advanced the claim alleging that the risk factors made it negligent for the surgeon to carry out the operation that he did and that a temporary ileostomy should have been fashioned; if this had been done the breakdown of the wound would not have happened and J would have avoided her injuries. The Defendant strongly denied the claim and said the surgeon’s actions would be supported by a responsible body of medical opinion. The Defendant also argued that carrying out an ileostomy would not have avoided the complications J suffered.
The settlement agreement value reflected our assessment of the risks of the case. The award will enable J to move closer to her sister, in accommodation suitable to meet her needs and will provide J with additional care and support from a specialist brain injury care and case manager
After the case was concluded, J’s sister said:
"Our case was very complex and emotionally draining. Samantha Critchley and Fieldfisher proved to be our saving grace. There were never any false promises, we were always kept informed and Sam proved time and time again that she was experienced, skillful, compassionate, understanding and always the consummate professional. Everything was clearly explained with sound advice. Sam’s detailed knowledge base resulted in a substantial settlement that will change my sister’s life and provide her with future care. We cannot thank Sam enough for making a catastrophic event bearable."