Hospital appeals mother’s $1.27 million compensation payout

Date: Sep 29, 2017

A hospital has appealed a Supreme Court decision to award $1.27 million compensation to a mother who developed nervous shock following the delivery of her son at the facility.

The woman gave birth in 2007, but her son was born with severe disabilities and will require a lifetime of care. She previously settled a medical negligence claim against the hospital over alleged care failings during the birth.

However, the woman later claimed she suffered significant mental harm as a result of her experiences. Medical experts supported her decision and the Supreme Court awarded her several heads of damage, including:

  • Non-economic losses: $208,000;
  • Past economic losses: $271,469; and
  • Future economic losses: $599,631.

The hospital has since argued that the trial judge erred in his decision-making when calculating the plaintiff's compensation, leading to an appeal.

What is the hospital appealing?

The health care provider had admitted it owed the woman a duty of care and that this obligation was breached, resulting in mental harm that manifested as a psychological illness.

Nevertheless, the appellant challenged the damages on two counts, alleging:

1. The primary judge favoured the woman's medical experts over the hospital's with regards to the causation of her mental harm; and
2. The judge miscalculated the woman's residual earning capacity by placing an onus on the hospital to show what jobs she could perform.

If successful, the appeal would affect the compensation awarded for non-economic losses – which cover pain and suffering – as well as past and future loss of income and superannuation.

These damages comprised nearly $1.1 million of the medical negligence payout.

Was the appeal successful?

Three appellate judges reviewed the original case and ruled the appeal had no merit.

"The court considered that the appellant had not advanced sufficient reasons to prefer the opinion of [their medical expert], particularly given that the weight of the remainder of the evidence did not support that opinion," they stated.

"In addressing the second basis, the court affirmed the approach taken by the primary judge in assessing future economic loss … No error was demonstrated by the appellant in this regard."

The appeal was dismissed and the hospital was ordered to pay the respondent's costs. The woman should now receive the $1.27 million compensation to which she is entitled.

Have you suffered medical negligence? We're keen to help you discuss your options, so please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for a free consultation.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.