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Damages Obtained For a Client Who Suffered Damage to Ankle as a Result of a Negligent Procedure

LWR Senior Solicitor Alison Ainsley acted on behalf of the Claimant (C) who sustained injury to his right ankle in an assault in February 2009.  He suffered a trimalleolar fracture dislocation with disruption of the inferior tibio-fibular joint for which he underwent surgical reduction and internal fixation using a plate and screws.  

The initial surgery was satisfactory but unfortunately the plate bent post operatively, leading to a problem with the joint.  This was not recognised and in March 2009 C underwent negligent revision surgery with replacement of the screws instead of replacement of the bent plate.  This error was compounded in April 2009 when a decision was taken by the Co Durham & Darlington NHS FT to remove the screws prematurely before the fracture had united.  This led to progressive deformity and destruction of the ankle joint.  C eventually found himself in the hands of a foot and ankle surgery expert in July 2009.  An attempt was made to preserve the ankle joint with further surgery in August 2009 but this failed and, in December 2009 C underwent an ankle fusion.  

C suffered a prolonged convalescence period complicated by the need for removal of a screw.  He has been left with a stiff ankle and painful joints and still walks with crutches.  He has been unable to return to work as he is unable to walk on uneven ground, climb ladders and carry out the tasks required of his job.  He has required assistance with many household tasks.  

Expert evidence was obtained from an Orthopaedic Surgeon to confirm that the treatment fell below an acceptable standard of care.  A Letter of Claim was submitted and the Hospital Trust admitted that they had breached their duty of care to C.  The Hospital Trust also accepted that the negligent surgery had caused the need for ankle fusion but denied the extent of the injury.  The expert appointed by C confirmed that C’s condition was permanent and there was a substantial risk of arthritis within the ankle joint.  

Proceedings were issued through the High Court and the admission was referred to within the Court documentation.  A Defence was not filed by the Solicitors acting on behalf of the Hospital Trust and Judgment was entered against the Hospital Trust but with the extent of the injury remaining in dispute.  That effectively meant that the value of the claim also remained very much in dispute.  The case progressed through the Courts with expert and lay witness evidence being exchanged and joint expert statements being prepared.  It was clear that the Parties’ respective Orthopaedic experts agreed on all points.  There was an issue as to the type of employment the Claimant could undergo and so a jointly instructed Employment expert’s report was obtained, assisting the Claimant’s solicitor to produce a final Schedule of Loss.  Negotiation between the parties followed, which resulted in a settlement in the sum of £480,000.

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