Plaintiff and defendant appeal $1.67 million medical negligence payout

Date: Feb 26, 2018

Many medical negligence claims result in one party coming away from the proceedings disappointed with the decision. However, a recent case that went before a NSW Court of Appeal justice saw both the plaintiff and the defendant appeal the original ruling.

In 2016, a woman was awarded $1.67 million after she successfully argued that a hospital had provided negligent care while she was suffering from induced epileptic seizures.

The plaintiff was considering surgical options for her condition, requiring the hospital to induce a seizure and monitor in which region of the brain it was occurring to see whether she was eligible for an operation.

Staff failings meant the woman did not receive adequate medical care during a series of seizures lasting two hours and 44 minutes. Following this incident, the plaintiff's epileptic episodes became more frequent, severe and unpredictable.

Why did the parties appeal the decision?

Both parties believed the judge erred in his award of damages. The hospital argued that while it had breached its duty of care, it did not believe the lapse was responsible for the deterioration in the woman's condition.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff was dissatisfied with the amount of compensation she received. Justice Stephen Campbell made significant reductions to her payout because medical evidence suggested the hospital's care had made her epilepsy more severe, but the condition was likely worsening over time anyway.

He therefore discounted her past economic losses by 50 per cent, while lowering her past and future care costs by 67 and 75 per cent, respectively. Justice Campbell also reduced her future income compensation by 67 per cent.

The plaintiff claimed her condition was not progressively deteriorating before the hospital's blunders and sought a review of the reductions for damages.

Who won the medical negligence appeal?

A panel of three appellate judges reviewed the case and found Justice Campbell had not erred in his decision-making during the original trial.

They ruled that the woman had been suffering from a progressively deteriorating form of epilepsy, with a steady increase in the number of episodes she was suffering each year until the induced seizures.

However, medical practitioners also agreed her condition became notably worse following her hospital admission. The plaintiff now has little to no warning that a seizure is coming, they occur far more regularly and she is mentally impaired for days or even weeks afterwards.

The appellate judges dismissed both appeals and confirmed the original decision, which means the plaintiff will receive the $1.67 million originally awarded.

If you would like to discuss a medical negligence claim, Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers offers free face-to-face or over-the-phone consultations to assess your case.

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