Western Australian hospital ordered to pay over $400,000 in compensation for their negligence during a routine procedure

PUBLISHED 23 Mar 2016

In the recent Western Australian case of Martin v Minister for Health [2016] WADC15 a 63 year old man brought a claim against the Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial District Hospital for the negligent treatment that he received from the hospital.

The Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital on 20 November 2012 for treatment relating to septic arthritis. On 23 November hospital staff attempted to peripherally insert a central catheter (PICC) into the Plaintiff’s right arm to administer antibiotics. During the attempt the Plaintiff suffered injury to the interior of his arm, resulting in the compression of his right median nerve.

As a result of the failed PICC insertion the Plaintiff’s median nerve suffered prolonged compression from 23 November 2012 for several weeks. This resulted in tingling, numbness, and later constant pain described as being like an electrical bolt down the arm. The Plaintiff made many complaints of pain in his right arm to hospital staff which were recorded in the clinical notes, however they failed to investigate his complaints and determine the cause.

Over the next few months the Plaintiff’s right arm pain was not investigated during the course of many consultations. Eventually, the Plaintiff consulted a plastic surgeon in January and underwent surgery at the end of February 2013, which resulted in the removal of a haematoma.

After the successful surgery the Plaintiff’s pain went away, however he still had limited movement in his hand which prevented him from working and performing many of his daily tasks.

Under the Western Australian Civil Liability Act 2002 to prove that a doctors actions were negligent the Plaintiff must establish that their actions were not “widely accepted by the health professional’s peers as competent professional practice.” There can be multiple different practices which are widely accepted in the medical community.  In this case the Defendant (the hospital) argued that their investigations were adequate and competent professional practice.

District Court Judge Bowden did not agree. He did not think the hospital’s “wait and see” approach was adequate and relied on the Plaintiff’s expert witnesses who stated that had the problem been identified  and operated on by around 6 December 2012 the Plaintiff would not have suffered any permanent disability.

Another argument made by the Defendant relates to the fact that at the time the Plaintiff suffered from a variety of different medical issues with a history going back to 1999. Over the years he had been treated for depression, various types of arthritis, dizzy spells, and shoulder chest and wrist pain.

Judge Bowden reviewed this information and addressed the issue of causation specifically. In order to claim damages for medical negligence it is necessary to establish that the injuries and disabilities suffered flow from the negligent acts or omissions. On the balance of probabilities, Judge Bowden found that it was the failure to investigate and correct the compressed nerve soon enough which resulted in the Plaintiff’s ongoing disabilities, including his inability to work anymore.

Ultimately Judge Bowden ruled in favour of the Plaintiff and awarded him damages in the amount of $444,000 for pain and suffering, economic loss in the past and future, and domestic assistance that he required to perform tasks he could no longer undertake.

Medical Negligence cases are the most complex and technical personal injury claims. There are a large number of elements to prove in order to satisfy the court that a medical professional has acted negligently.

To make a claim you need to know that your solicitors are experts in the field. At Gerard Malouf and Partners our team of specialist Medical Negligence lawyers have experience in a wide variety of matters.

If you have suffered injury or disability as a result of a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence contact us today for a free consultation with one of our Accredited Specialists.

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