£100,000 recovered for failure to diagnose cancer of the parotid gland

We acted on behalf of the widow of a man (“C”) from Whitstable, Kent, who was aged 71 at the date of his death in June 2014.

C was concerned about the intermittent swelling of his salivary glands and, following an ultrasound scan which identified a lump, he came under the care of the ENT department at Kent & Canterbury Hospital in March 2012.

A further ultrasound scan in April 2012 confirmed the presence of a lump in the right parotid gland and a fine needle aspiration (“FNA”) was advised.

The FNA was performed in April 2012 and it was reported that the lump represented a pleomorphic adenoma (a benign lump). The FNA positively reported the absence of malignant cells.

The decision was taken to operate to remove the lump, but this was not considered to be urgent due to it reportedly being benign. The operation was therefore not scheduled until March 2013.

However, when C returned to hospital to have the surgery it was found that the lump had grown significantly. A core biopsy and an MRI scan were performed in April 2013 which gave a strong suspicion of cancer which was later confirmed on histological analysis.

Surgery was performed to remove the cancer in May 2013, and this resulted in the complete loss of C’s right facial nerve, the loss of his right ear and the loss of a significant amount of the right side of his face and neck requiring muscle and soft tissue grafting by way of repair.

Further, and as a consequence of the delayed diagnosis and removal of the parotid cancer, by the time of the surgery the cancer was stage 4. Radiotherapy and then chemotherapy treatments were provided, but lung and brain metastases developed and C died as a result of metastatic cancer spread in June 2014.

The claim was initially dealt with by another firm of solicitors, who undertook initial investigations including obtaining a report from an ENT expert, then abandoned the claim.

C therefore came to us for further representation.

We had little hesitation in agreeing to take this matter on, as it seemed clear that the previous solicitors had failed to investigate all of the relevant issues.

We began our investigation by instructing a cytology expert to review the FNA sample. That expert indicated that the original diagnosis of a pleomorphic adenoma from the FNA was incorrect and that the FNA report ought to have stated that malignancy could not be excluded.

We then instructed our own ENT expert, who confirmed that, if the FNA had been reported as not excluding malignancy, a core biopsy would have been performed in April 2012, which would have led to the correct diagnosis and surgery by June 2012 (almost a year before it was actually performed). He also confirmed that, a year earlier, the surgery would not have resulted in the loss of C’s right facial nerve or his right ear, and that the injury to the face and neck would not have required a graft.

We submitted a Letter of Claim to the Defendant setting out these allegations, while we instructed an oncology expert to identify the stage the cancer would have been 1 year earlier and to confirm whether the metastatic spread would have been avoided so that C would have survived.

The East Kent Hospitals University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust responded to our Letter of Claim by indicating that liability was admitted for the incorrect diagnosis and the delay in surgery. They also admitted that the cancer would have been stage 1, and that C would have avoided the metastases, and would have survived had the negligence not occurred.

The Trust made an initial offer of £50,000. This was rejected, and a further offer of £88,000 was then made. This was also rejected, and a further offer of £100,000 was made. Such offer was acceptable to our client, and was accepted.

Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of this case, said “I am extremely pleased to have been able to bring this claim to a successful conclusion for C’s family, and to have obtained the answers they wanted and deserved to receive about C’s treatment.

Not only did C receive poor treatment from the Trust which resulted in his premature death, he (and later his family, after he had died) also received poor service from the previous solicitors. This was a case of significant importance to C and his family, and it deserved to be investigated properly and thoroughly, but it was not.

Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more people being let down by non-specialist solicitors providing a poor service in clinical negligence claims – because they don’t have the specialist expertise to investigate the relevant issues in what are often very complex claims.

As a specialist clinical negligence firm, we are always happy to review potential claims which have previously been the subject of unsuccessful investigations with another firm – it is surprising just how often we bring such claims to a successful conclusion.

If you or a member of your family has suffered as a result of negligence on the part of a health professional then please do not hesitate to phone us free on 0800 999 5585, request a call back or submit your case details.