£600,000 recovered for failure to adequately treat post-operative infection

28th April’19 – Our client, a 35-year-old woman from Ramsgate, Kent, underwent right knee surgery at the William Harvey Hospital (Ashford) in November 2011.
Subsequently, she developed a post-operative soft tissue infection.

The infection was managed by the orthopaedic team with various repeat debridement and washout procedures, over a prolonged period, until finally she was transferred to the plastic surgeons at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead in October 2012.

Unfortunately, despite numerous surgeries to try to eradicate the infection (including tissue, muscle and tendon removal – resulting in our client suffering a foot drop and having much reduced function and a poor aesthetic outcome), and more recently maggot therapy, the infection has persisted.

We obtained expert evidence which confirmed that our client should have been referred to the plastic surgeons by no later than May 2012 (i.e. 5 months sooner than she was referred) for radical debridement and that, had she been, the infection would not have had a chance to take hold as it did and would have been eradicated.

The Defendant admitted liability for the failure to refer our client to the plastic surgeons by May 2012 (the 5 month delay), but they denied and defended the case on causation grounds. Firstly, they argued that the earlier referral would not have made any difference to the treatment of the infection or the outcome for our client. Secondly they tried to argue that there was no reason why the infection should not have been eradicated through the treatment our client had received and she must therefore have had perpetuated the infection herself by interfering with the wound / self-harming.

The Defendant relied upon a histopathology report from an operation in July 2013, which identified ‘plant material’ in the wound, alleging that this was inserted into the wound intentionally by our client. However, this was the only occasion on which such material was found, despite various histopathology from the numerous further surgeries, and beyond this, the Defendant was restricted to alleging that our client had been manually interfering with her wound (for which there was of course no evidence).

Our experts (orthopaedic surgeon, plastic surgeon, and psychiatrist) were all adamant that the course the infection had taken was explained by normal physiological processes, and that there was no evidence to support the Defendant’s allegation of self-harm.

The Defendant maintained their position, however, and the claim progressed towards Trial (due to begin on 08.04.19). No offers were made by the Defendant during the course of the claim.

However, at a Round Table Meeting on 28.03.19, the Defendant began to negotiate – beginning at a figure of £350,000, before a settlement was eventually achieved in the sum of £600,000.

Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of this case, said:- “I am very pleased that this claim has settled and that my client has been spared the Trial which, given the allegation of self-harm, could have been a very difficult experience for her. The level of the settlement clearly indicates, in my view, that the Defendant didn’t have any real confidence in this allegation, which makes it all the more unfortunate that they raised it at all and that they pursued it for so long. I am pleased, however, that my client can now feel fully vindicated regarding that allegation.

Our client commented:- “without you and [the barrister] I’d never in my wildest dreams ever think this possible. I cannot thank you enough!!! Thank you again for all you have done for me. You’ve been a great company. You and [the barrister] were brilliant.

If you or a member of your family believes you have a claim then please do not hesitate to phone us free on 0800 999 5585, request a call back or submit your case details.