May 3, 2015

Compensation for injuries caused by medication overdose much higher than original offer

H, who was 69 at the time, was admitted to hospital with an infection around his right hip prosthesis and was treated with gentamicin. He was also at the time taking a different medicine, furosemide, for hypertension.

In the next two weeks, H developed problems with his vision, hearing, speech and coordination. His treatment still continued until it was eventually discovered that he was suffering from severe gentamicin toxicity as a result of an overdose of the medication.

H experienced severe kidney failure, loss of hearing in both ears, loss of vision, loss of balance and weight loss. As a result, H was unable to maintain his balance and was subject to regular falls. He was dependent on others for his daily care needs and had difficulty walking, carrying objects, washing and dressing.

Eventually, H’s kidney function and vision returned to normal. However, his hearing in both ears was permanently impaired and he would continue to suffer from balance problems.

H made a formal complaint first, and the hospital offered £15,000 in settlement, followed by a ‘final’ offer of £23,400. H then contacted Simon Elliman, partner in our Clinical Negligence team, who helped him bring a claim against the hospital.

The hospital admitted liability but argued that at least some of H’s health issues had nothing to do with gentamicin, but were caused by pre-existing conditions. However, when H and the hospital jointly appointed a medical expert, that expert’s opinion proved crucial: H was 40 per cent disabled, with two-thirds of that disability being the direct result of gentamicin and one third stemming from his co-existing diseases.

The hospital eventually offered £160,000, a huge increase on their original ‘final’ offer of £23,400. However, after negotiation the claim was settled at an even higher amount, £207,500, which accounted for H’s pain, suffering and loss of amenity, future care and appliances and future adaptations to accommodation.

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