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Case Study

9-year-old suffers brain injury following botched shunt surgery at Royal London Hospital

At around six-months old, PQR developed a build-up of fluid on his brain (hydrocephalus). He had a successful shunt inserted in 1991 to relieve the pressure. As PQR grew, the shunt system was under increasing tension.

With the help of an expert neurosurgeon, Sam Critchley was able to prove that the paediatric surgeon at the Royal London Hospital negligently failed to take steps to relieve the tension in the shunt system. The shunt failed for a further time. This necessitated another operation on the eve of the millennium, which should have been avoided. The surgeon then botched the surgery; she operated on the wrong side of the brain where the ventricles were too small. This caused damage to the left side of the brain, affecting the thalamus, an information highway in the brain.

The surgery left PQR with right-sided hemiparesis (weakness) affecting his arm and leg. Cognitively, PQR is significantly disabled. He has problems controlling his emotions and regulating his temper. We argued that the brain damage contributed to the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric difficulties experienced by PQR. These difficulties were so severe that PQR required detention in hospital at times.

The Defendant admitted that the surgery was negligent and that it caused the right-sided weakness but they did not accept it resulted in behavioural problems. The main thrust of the Defendant's case was that the childhood hydrocephalus itself that caused the damage and that the claimant had a psychiatric illness rather than brain damage.

Our position was that PQR had been born in good condition prior to the hydrocephalus, which developed in 1991. He developed normally. PQR was regularly followed up post-operatively between 1991 and the time of the negligence in 1999 and there were no significant concerns about his development. We argued that whether or not the childhood hydrocephalus was a contributing factor, PQR's difficulties are consistent with the damage to the thalamus. The negligence made a material contribution.

Because the Claimant's family circumstances were difficult, we were concerned that PQR was under pressure to gain access to the compensation. We therefore took steps to protect PQR by inviting the Official Solicitor to act as litigation friend and obtained anonymity. We also successfully persuaded the Court that the Power of Attorney instigated by a family member over property and finances was signed by PQR when he lacked the ability to know or understand what he was signing. There was also a dispute with the local authority which failed to provide adequate care for PQR. PQR was allowed to leave his sheltered accommodation one winter in the early hours of a morning without any access to his medication, which caused a deterioration in his mental health. We had secured enough interim funds to get PQR into emergency accommodation, until we could move him somewhere longer term. While the case was ongoing, we were able to appoint a Case Manager, private neuropsychiatrist and neuropsychologist to support PQR. Statutory services would not provide what he needed.

The Defendant initially made a low offer of £150,000, which we rejected. The case was listed for trial on liability and quantum. Five months before trial, mediation took place. The Defendant made a substantial seven-figure settlement offer, which we advised the Official Solicitor to accept on PQR's behalf. This was approved by the court. What was most important to PQR was to have a place of his own to live and the support to allow him to live independently in the community, all of which we were able to achieve for him.

Contact us

For further information about paediatric surgery negligence claims and medical negligence claims, please call Samantha Critchley on 020 7861 4263 or email samantha.critchley@fieldfisher.com.

Alternatively

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