Compensation for a RAF engineer fitted with faulty 3M hip prosthesis | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Compensation for a RAF engineer fitted with faulty 3M hip prosthesis

Our client, Mr John-Lewis was an aeronautical engineer in the RAF. In 1991 following a sporting injury Mr John-Lewis began to complain of a pain in his hip. An x-ray demonstrated osteoarthritis.

In 1992 the Claimant was diagnosed to be carrying sickle cell trait.

The pain persisted and in March 1995 Mr John-Lewis was seen by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who confirmed the radiological diagnosis and advised that Mr John-Lewis should undergo a total hip replacement. 

As his condition continued to deteriorate in terms of pain and function, he was admitted to RAF Wroughton for total hip replacement which was carried out on 17 November 1995 by Mr Varley. 3M components were used.

Mr John-Lewis appeared to do well initially and he was discharged on 22 November 1995. By 4 March 1996 he was certified as fit for full duties but he should restrain from physical exertion. 

Mr John-Lewis wrote to Mr Varley on 27 February 1997 complaining of soreness in the left hip and pain on walking long distances. He had also been told that his left leg was shorter than his right by 1 cm, which resulted in a limp.

At this stage he had retired from the RAF and emigrated to Australia. He came under the care of Mr Collopy, orthopaedic surgeon, after an X-ray had demonstrated a marked lucency between the femoral component and the cement mantle.  It was apparent radiographically that the hip component was failing with premature loosening of the femoral component and socket.

Mr John-Lewis underwent revision with bone grafting of both the acetabular and femoral components on 12 February 1999.  He made good post-operative recovery but unfortunately sustained dislocations of the hip and in the three months following the procedure necessitating revision with adjustment of the offset of the femoral component.

We initially received instructions in this matter in July 1998. The Australian Solicitors were advised that limitation should not be in issue in this case.  This was because patients who had received the 3M component were to have their cases dealt with under a class action. 

All such claims were to proceed under the terms of a formal protocol, which was to be produced.  There was to be a panel of orthopaedic experts to report on causation and condition and prognosis prepared at the same time. Given the geographical location of Mr John-Lewis it was decided that he should be seen by an Australian expert to prepare the requisite reports.

The coordinating Solicitors for the protocol were Messrs Freeth Cartwright.  Messrs Eversheds were instructed on behalf of 3M Healthcare Limited they confirmed in a letter dated 28 August 1998 whilst not formally admitting primary liability; primary liability would not be contested. 

However, in relation to causation it was necessary to establish whether the failure of the hip was due to the prosthesis as opposed to some other cause such as poor surgical technical or infection. 

Samantha Critchley acted in the case that involved surgical negligence and product liability. The case was also complicated by underlying condition of sickle cell anemia causing osteoarthritis. 

Samantha settled the claim for £37,500 on the basis that redo revision was accelerated.

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For further information about surgery negligence claims and clinical negligence claims, please call Samantha Critchley on 03304606812 or email


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