SOD v Dr A. & ST
The Plaintiff was a lady in her 50s who was suffering from gallstones and was admitted to a large Dublin private hospital under the care of a Consultant General Surgeon for an elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a form of keyhole surgery to investigate and remove gallstones from the area surrounding the gall bladder. Following the procedure the Plaintiff became extremely unwell and developed abdominal pain, nausea and a temperature. An ultrasound was carried out 2 days after the procedure which revealed bile in the peritoneal cavity and she was transferred to the nearby public hospital for an ERCP. The Plaintiff vomited and became unresponsive during the preparation for the ERCP and was subsequently transferred for an emergency laparotomy which revealed the extent of the free fluid in her peritoneal cavity and that she had developed a leak at the junction of the cystic duct and common bile duct and a perforation of the duodenum. The Plaintiff had developed severe bilary peritonitis and the cystic duct stump was oversewn and the perforated duodenum repaired. Thereafter the Plaintiff spent a protracted period in intensive care in a coma and a spent a total of six months in hospital recovering from the events of her elective procedure.
The Plaintiff sued the Consultant Surgeon and the Hospital alleging that there was negligence in causing the Plaintiff to suffer a leak at the junction of the cystic duct and the common bile duct which led to her developing bilary peritonitis. It was also alleged that due to this initial tear she was forced to undergo an attempted ERCP at which stage it was probably she suffered the injury to her duodenum. It was also alleged that there was a failure to respond to her deteriorating symptoms in the post operative period prior to the laparotomy being carried out.
Liability was denied by both Defendants on the grounds that the injury suffered by the Plaintiff was a well recognised non-negligent complication of the type of surgery she had undergone. It was also denied that there was a failure to respond to her clinical condition. Reports were exchanged with the Defendants and it was clear that a strong Defence was being mounted and the Court would have to decide whether or not this particular injury had occurred because of negligence or because it was simply a complication of surgery. The Plaintiff’s experts accepted that this was a known complication of laparoscopic cholecystectomy but were of the view that in the case of this Plaintiff it had occurred due to the negligence of the surgeon when he was dividing adhesions which were found in the Plaintiff’s abdomen. In the circumstances and in light of the robust Defence to be put forward by the Defendant, it was felt that a compromise would be required if the case was to be settled by the parties to reflect the risks posed on the issue of liability.
A settlement meeting was requested by the Defendants in advance of a trial date being fixed and the matter was resolved with a payment to the Plaintiff of €125,000 in damages together with a payment of €78,614.60 to the Plaintiff Health Insurer who had discharged a large proportion of her medical bills as well as an indemnity from the Defendant Hospital that unpaid expenses in the sum of €67,581.00 would be foregone by it. In total this represented a settlement value of €271,195.60 in addition to the Plaintiff’s legal costs which was felt to be an appropriate settlement given the risks on liability that the Plaintiff would have had to overcome had the case gone to trial.
23 July 2010