WM –v– NJ

The Plaintiff was a 55 year old man with a long history of back trouble since his teenage years. The Plaintiff had undergone a number of spinal surgeries in an attempt to deal with his severe back pain but unfortunately, these were largely unsuccessful. The Plaintiff was referred to the Pain Clinic of the Defendant Hospital, and after evaluation, was considered a suitable candidate for the installation of an intra-thecal pump to give pain relief. This pump was fitted in February 2002 and would dispense drugs, including morphine, to palliate the Plaintiff’s pain. Over the following three years, the Plaintiff attended the Pain Clinic at said Hospital for routine adjustment and topping up of the drugs in the pump.

On the 8th of September 2005, the Plaintiff attended the Hospital for a routine top up when, due to an error made by the Doctor administering the drugs, the pump was incorrectly calibrated so that it was administering the drugs at a rate in excess of 100 times the intended rate. Within minutes of leaving the Clinic, the Plaintiff collapsed (apparentley due to cardiac arrest) and was brought to the Accident and Emergency Department. The Plaintiff was then left for a lengthy period of time awaiting assessment by a Doctor and lapsed in to a coma. He was eventually transferred to the ICU where he remained in a coma for a number of days. During this period, the Plaintiff suffered a heart attack, seizures, and developed pneumonia. The Plaintiff also suffered from infection.

The Plaintiff spent seven weeks in Hospital and was discharged on the 25th of October 2005. Subsequent to his discharge, the Plaintiff was on oral medications for approximately nine months until a new drug, Ziconotide, became available for intra-thecal use. The Plaintiff has availed of this medication since this time and it appears to have been reasonably successful in relieving his pain. However, the Plaintiff has developed a number of complaints following the overdosage to include slurred speech, tremors/spasms, dizziness and significant memory loss. The Plaintiff also complained of a worsening of his mood since the overdosage.

Proceedings were issued in this case claiming damages for the injuries suffered by the Plaintiff as a result of the overdosage on the 8th of September 2005. The Defendant admitted liability in respect of this overdosage, but did not admit that the entirety of the personal injuries claimed in our proceedings had been caused by the negligence of the Defendants. There was a disagreement between the medical experts as to how much of the Plaintiff’s symptomology was related to the overdose and how much related to the incident and/or was unrelated to the overdose. This matter was set down for trial to commence in January 2011, but prior to this, a settlement meeting was arranged. Following extensive negotiations, the matter was settled in the sum of €150,000 with costs to be agreed at taxation. The settlement reflected the difficulties faced by the Plaintiff in establishing that all of his injuries and symptoms were related to the drug overdosage.

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18 January 2011

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