The Claimant (C), the executrix and widow of the estate of the deceased (X), recovered total damages of £180,000 in an out of court settlement following the death of her husband at the age of 46 as a result of a delay in diagnosis of meningitis.
X attended A & E at the First Defendant’s Hospital (D1) and was diagnosed with suspected meningitis. He was started on treatment for meningitis but was not given a lumbar puncture. A lumbar puncture would have confirmed the diagnosis of viral or bacterial meningitis. The following day X was discharged and advised that he would improve in time. 9 days later X returned to D1’s Hospital as his condition had deteriorated. 10 days later X developed severe papilloedema in both eyes and a lumbar puncture was performed that day. The lumbar puncture showed an abnormal result and meningitis was suspected. 2 days later X was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis and was transferred to the Second Defendant’s Hospital (D2). D2 started X on steroids, namely prednisolone 60 mg. As there was no space-occupying lesion, the administration of steroids was contraindicated because steroids would reduce lymphocyte levels even further, give rise to diabetes and disseminate the disease. After 10 days X started to be weaned off from steroids. The treatment was not effective. The cryptococcoma was extensive and X’s condition deteriorated and he died 8 months later.
X had remained in hospital for a long period. He had suffered damage to his hearing and eyesight and his mobility was impaired. He developed diabetes. He continued to suffer severe pain until his death.
The Claimant brought a claim on behalf of X’s estate under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934, and on her own behalf and that of their 3 dependent children under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, as amended. C alleged that a lumbar puncture should have been performed when X attended A & E of D1’s Hospital. C alleged that D2 failed to administer appropriate treatment for cryptococcal meningitis. C alleged that with prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, X would have recovered in about 6 weeks, would not have suffered damage to his hearing and vision, would not have developed diabetes and his death would have been avoided. D1 admitted liability. D2 denied liability.
The estimated breakdown of the settlement is as follows: –
General Damages (pain suffering and loss of amenity) £50,000
Statutory bereavement award £12,980
Costs of care £25,000
Loss of dependency £92,000.