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Compensation for complications caused by negligent gallstone surgery

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Damages secured for client seriously affected by negligent surgical error

Brian Britten has had a long history of stomach problems since childhood. In August 2010, aged 74, he was admitted to Northampton General Hospital with severe abdominal pain. An MRI scan revealed that he had gallstones which needed to be removed.

After a few days he was transferred to Leicester General Hospital to undergo surgery to remove the gallstones. He was told that Leicester General Hospital was a centre of excellence for general surgery. Once he arrived at Leicester General Hospital he underwent five surgical procedures to try to remove the gallstones over a two month period. He was extremely unwell and remained in hospital for over three months.

Complications following the procedure

Following the final procedure in November 2010 Mr Britten and his family were very relieved to be told that the gallstones had now finally been removed. However, despite the surgeon’s assurances he continued to be extremely unwell and was reliant on his family, in particular his wife, to care for him. He remained under the care of his family as well as district nurses and various outpatient’s departments but he did not recover.

In December 2012, he developed an abscess in his chest wall and by May 2013, still very unwell, he was desperate for a solution to his ongoing health problems and sought a private referral to John Radcliffe Hospital.

Negligent surgical error caused serious injuries

More than two and a half years after being told that his gallstones had been removed, the private hepatobilary surgeon who examined him concluded that he may have retained gallstones in his abdomen. In July 2013 he underwent an MRI scan which revealed multiple stones scattered throughout his abdominal cavity. One had punctured his colon, another had caused a bowel obstruction and one had caused an abscess on the base of his right lung.

Life-changing harm suffered by client

In October 2013 Mr Britten, then aged 77, underwent further surgery to remove the gallstones. He was informed that the abscess caused by the stones had caused permanent damage to the base lobes of his right lung, resulting in shortness of breath and decreased mobility. His immunity had been compromised as a result of all the infections and abscesses and he had developed a very large hernia which caused problems with mobility and affected his ability to care for himself and his wife who was herself in very poor-health.

Access Legal Solicitors instructed to pursue civil claim

Mr Britten instructed Access Legal Solicitors to investigate a potential clinical negligence claim in April 2014. Rebecca Sellers, a solicitor in the firm’s medical negligence team, handled the case.

Rebecca obtained expert evidence from an independent professor of surgery who advised that it was negligent of the surgeon to have failed to notice that he had spilled gallstones into Mr Britten’s abdomen whilst operating on him. The expert also concluded that the surgeon had failed to take sufficient steps to investigate the cause of Mr Britten’s ongoing illness when he did not make a recovery.

Mr Britten was examined and was found to have suffered permanent, life-changing injuries as a result of the negligence. Court proceedings were issued and the allegations of negligence were put to the defendant in this case, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Negotiations to secure best possible settlement award

The defendant Trust responded to the allegations and eventually admitted liability for negligently leaving a gallstone in Mr Britten’s bile duct and for failing to record spilling gallstones into the abdomen. It was further admitted that the spilt gallstones should have been documented and removed.

The defendant also admitted that, had the gallstones not been spilt, Mr Britten would have avoided sepsis, abscesses, some additional surgical procedures and some scarring. However, they did not accept the full impact that their negligence had had upon Mr Britten, in particular that he had developed a hernia which affected his mobility and the ability to care for himself and his wife, who tragically passed away whilst the claim was ongoing.

Rebecca then entered into negotiations with the defendant to achieve the best possible outcome for Mr Britten and was ultimately successful in obtaining £92,500 in damages to reflect the seriousness of his injuries. The award has enabled him to purchase aids and equipment and make modifications to his property so that he can continue to live at home as independently as possible, while better managing his injuries.

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