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When a headache leaves a 48 year old woman paralysed and unable to speak

Case Overview

Our client was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Department of a major teaching hospital suffering a gradually increasing severe headache.

On review by the attending doctors, it was noted that our client was not suffering from any neurological deficits. Morphine was provided to relieve her headache.

However, no investigations were arranged, such as a CT Scan before she was discharged.

As our client continued to suffer a headache and had now developed slurred speech and right facial drop her family again arranged for an ambulance to take her to hospital. On arrival at hospital investigations were conducted, and an urgent CT Scan scheduled. The CT scan revealed, that our client had sustained an extensive bleed that had spread throughout her brain and she underwent emergency brain surgery. A craniectomy and evacuation procedure were performed and she became able to respond to commands but remained unable to speak. Our client was also unable to move the upper and lower limbs on her right side.

It was alleged on behalf of our client that had a CT Scan been done when she first attended hospital, the brain bleed would have been identified and as a result she would not have suffered such severe injuries, including paralysis of her right arm and leg

Our Approach

Given the complexity of the injuries and the medical treatment provided, we briefed a number of experts ranging from neurologists to emergency physicians and occupational therapists to provide expert reports to assist our client’s claim.

Proceedings were commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales where our experts all explained that the a CT Scan when our client first presented to the Hospital, was a breach of the duty of care owed to our client. That as a result of this breach, there was a 48-hour delay in diagnosing our client’s condition, which resulted in our client suffering right-sided paralysis and other significant ongoing injuries.

In particular, a neurosurgeon who provided our client with a supportive report explained that given her initial presentations to Hospital, her elevated blood pressure was an indication that it was something more than merely a ‘headache’ and that should a CT have been ordered.

The expert went on to explain that on balance our client would have still required the brain surgery however as the brain bleed would not have been as severe, she would not have suffered the right-sided weakness and sensory impairment that she now continues to live with.

The Result

The parties attended a Mediation, at which time a negotiated settlement was reached.

Susan Newman Lawyer

Susan Newman

Senior Associate
Have enough courage to start and enough heart to finish. – Jessica N. S. Yourko
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