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Case Study

Six figure settlement for bereaved widower in secondary victim claim against Essex NHS Trust

Iona Meeres-Young was instructed to represent Mr BRX in a claim concerning the tragic death of his wife, Mrs BRX.

Mrs BRX was 15 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital following a premature rupture of membranes. Conservative management was planned for 24-48 hours and oral antibiotics were commenced.

Around two days later, Mrs BRX was noted to have rigors, pain, low blood pressure and a high temperature.  It was considered that she was suffering from sepsis secondary to premature rupture of membranes. IV antibiotics and Paracetamol were commenced and Mrs BRX continued to be managed conservatively, as it was felt that she was progressing towards miscarriage of pregnancy.

However, by the following morning, Mrs BRX's condition had deteriorated and she was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). Diagnoses included sepsis and acute kidney injury and Mrs BRX required urgent surgery to remove the septic fetus. Following surgery she returned to the ICU but remained in a critical condition with multi-organ failure. Attempts to resuscitate Mrs BRX were unsuccessful and she tragically died later that day. Having witnessed the sudden and shocking demise of his wife, Mr BRX was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression.

The NHS Trust made an early admission of liability. It accepted that Mrs BRX's death would have been avoided, if the severity of her condition had been appropriately heeded and managed. Following its admission the Trust paid substantial damages to Mr BRX and his young children to compensate for the financial losses associated with Mrs BRX's death.

The Trust did not however accept that Mr BRX should be entitled to damages as a 'secondary victim' for his own psychiatric injury. It was contended that Mr BRX did not meet the strict legal criteria set out in the case of Alock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police - a case concerning victims of the Hillsborough disaster – as the Trust did not deem the events witnessed by Mr BRX to be sufficiently shocking in nature. However, following the issue and service of court proceedings the Trust agreed to make a further six figure damages payment to Mr BRX. Damages included an award for lost earnings as well as private treatment and therapies.

Mr BRX's settlement was reflective of the finely balanced case law in this area. His claim settled by way of mediation with the NHS Trust and its representatives.

Iona Meeres-Young was assisted throughout this case by Emma Kendall. Counsel instructed was Clodagh Bradley QC of One Crown Office Row.

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For further information about sepsis claims, please call Iona Meeres-Young on 020 7861 4571 or email iona.meeres-young@fieldfisher.com.

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