The Claimant, an 11 year old boy (C), received an out of court settlement of £67,000 following a failure by his GP to recognise that he was suffering from meningitis and refer him to hospital, followed by a delay by the hospital in investigating his condition properly when he was eventually admitted. He suffered severe permanent hearing loss in his right ear and mild hearing loss in his left ear.

C’s parents contacted the out of hours GP during the early hours of the morning after C developed a rash on his trunk, hands, and feet, and had a high temperature. The GP suspected chickenpox and advise the parents to contact C’s own GP if they remained concerned. Over the next few hours the rash spread over C’s body and his neck became stiff. The parents contacted the GP, the first defendant (D1) who, in the afternoon, diagnosed a viral infection. C’s temperature remained high and the next day he vomited brown fluid. The parents contacted the GP surgery but were unable to obtain an appointment that morning and so they took C to the second defendant Hospital (D2), where they were advised to take C to see D1 that morning. D1 maintained a diagnosis of a viral infection. C continued to vomit and was limp. His parents took him back to the GP surgery in the early evening when a different GP referred him to the D2 hospital. C’s notes on admission stated that he had been vomiting, had a rash which had cleared up, and had had a fever. On examination, C was noted to be lethargic, have sunken eyes and dry lips and was quiet. As there was no improvement by the following morning a lumbar puncture was performed around midday and C was diagnosed with meningitis. He was started on antibiotics and discharged one week later. 

Following his discharge, C started headbanging, smacking himself in the face and biting himself. Following investigations he was diagnosed with a severe hearing loss in the right ear. C was also noted to have mild hearing loss in the left ear and had difficulty hearing when there was background noise. 

C’s hearing loss was permanent and he needed to use hearing aids on a daily basis. He would be at a disadvantage in applying for jobs for which good hearing was needed, such as the police force or army, or manual jobs where it was necessary to be able to hear oral instructions for health and safety purposes.  

C alleged that D1 failed to diagnose meningitis and D2 failed to investigate in a timely manner following admission resulting in a delay in starting antibiotics. 

The Out of Court settlement of £67,000 included a litigation risk estimated to be 50% to 55% based on an assumption C would have suffered some hearing loss in any event and due to a lack of research on the effect of a delay in starting antibiotics on hearing loss. An estimated breakdown of the settlement without the litigation risk was as follows: – 

General Damages (pain and suffering): permanent loss of hearing in the right ear £32,000; partial loss of hearing left ear £16,000; loss of future earning capacity £3000. 

Special Damages: past losses £2000, hearing aids £67,500, travel £3500, psychological therapy £4500, teaching support £6000.

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