By Paul Bonner, Senior Underwriter, at Legal Futures Associate Temple Legal Protection
This case relates to a delay in diagnosing and treating meningitis and sepsis that settled at a capital equivalent value of £16m.
We are pleased to report that one of our major partner law firms in London, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA), has recently settled a multi-million pound case.
This challenging case involved a young child and a delay in diagnosing and treating meningitis and sepsis. The negligence had already occurred some 7 years before we were asked to insure the matter.
When presented to us in 2015, the case was in a distressed state, having been abandoned by other London solicitors after a negative expert’s report and a cancelled Legal Aid Certificate.
However, HJA approached us with a positive input from a KC and we were encouraged to offer ATE cover. The critical issue in the case was the impact of delay of some 8 hours after attending at A&E and the commencement of strong antibiotic treatment.
Once the breach of duty was established, the case turned on the impact to the outcome caused by the delayed diagnosis and treatment – every hour of delay contributed to a very serious outcome, which involved a life-saving amputation of lower limbs and fingers.
Judgment was entered in 2020 and the following two years have involved intensive use of various experts in assessing the level of damages, which has recently been agreed at the capital equivalent value of £16m; one of our largest settlements to date.
The Practitioner’s view: comment from Emma Wray, HJA partner and instructed solicitor:
“Initially this seemed to be a case worthy of investigation, but on obtaining the records and noting the previous involvement of solicitors and the negative advice from Counsel we immediately advised Temple, having obtained a brief advice from leading Counsel. Temple, nonetheless, agreed to insure the claim, and we agreed to regularly update them with progress.
Cases involving a delay in diagnosis of infection such as this are notoriously difficult, but we started from the premise that the expert instructed by previous solicitors (who agreed there had been a missed opportunity to give antibiotics 3.5 hours earlier than they were administered) had strayed outside his expertise when commenting on causation. Evidence from a microbiology expert supported causation and was bolstered by further evidence from a pediatric intensive care expert.
At this stage, we were ready to serve draft Particulars of Claim to stand as a Letter of Claim, following which admissions were made. Proceedings were issued, judgment was entered and we then embarked on the lengthy and complex process of quantification.
This case stands as a good illustration of the need for individual risk assessment of cases to be shared between solicitor and insurer, and for insurers to trust the judgement of legal advisers. We are grateful to Temple for their support throughout.”