Clinical Negligence case: Spinal surgery mistake

Jefferies Essex LLP acted for a client who underwent spinal surgery which resulted in injury.

Our client suffered from back pain for approximately 10 years, before being diagnosed with a prolapsed disc. She had spinal surgery where plastic spacers were secured with screws in her spine, in an attempt to stabilise her back.

Immediately after the operation, our client suffered excruciating pain. Over the coming days and weeks, she complained of severe stabbing pains in her back. Eventually, she was referred for a CT scan, which showed that one screw had been misplaced and this was putting pressure on a nerve, causing the subsequent pain.

A second procedure was carried out whereby the screw was removed and repositioned. Whilst the level of pain was reduced, our client was left with ongoing pain, muscle deterioration and loss of feeling in one leg, which all contributed to her now limited mobility.

Jefferies took on this matter with only a limited amount of time before the limitation period of the claim expired. We had hoped to investigate the claim as a formal Clinical Negligence action due to the negligently performed surgery. We were able to secure insurance funding, at no cost to the client, in order that we may obtain the necessary report to help us determine the merits of pursuing this to court. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the mistake, we were unable to take matters further.

The legal principle is that ‘a doctor will not be liable for negligence if he acted in accordance with a practice accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical men skilled in that particular art.’ The expert report concluded that the misplacement of a screw is only considered to be negligent in exceptional circumstances. In this claim, as the screw had been misplaced by mistake, the distance was not sufficient to amount to a breach of duty. He added that the delay in responding to the initial pain did not constitute a breach of duty.

Despite the conclusion that the surgeon did not breach his duty of care, Jefferies took all reasonable steps to investigate this, at no financial detriment to our client. If you, or anyone you know has suffered from Clinical Negligence, we can investigate your claim and help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us on 01702 322 311.