Medical Negligence

Doctors failed to diagnose elderly patient’s fractured knee, causing four months of immobility which ‘may have contributed to her death’

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Kirsty Yates

Litigation Executive

3 min read time

Doctors wrongly diagnosed a fracture to an elderly patient’s knee as an old injury, therefore failing to provide appropriate treatment and advice and leaving her unable to walk for the final four months of her life.

The patient had been relatively active and living in her own bungalow before suddenly experiencing severe pains in her knee to the point of being unable to bear weight.

Doctors examined and x-rayed her and concluded it was an old injury from a ruptured cyst with cartilage damage, discharging her for physiotherapy.

Unable to walk, she was discharged to a residential home.

She continued to suffer severe pain; three weeks later she was seen again at hospital where x-rays showed the injury had worsened and she was placed in a removable full leg cast, again being discharged to residential care.

Two months later her knee was found to be very unstable and at risk of complete dislocation. She died four months after first attending hospital, having never regained her mobility and not been able to return to her home.

The Legal Case

The family of the elderly patient approached us for free initial advice to see whether they could pursue a legal case on a no win no fee basis.

We requested all relevant medical records from the Hospital Trust and then sought independent, expert medical opinion on the treatment and care that had been provided to her.

The expert highlighted a failure to diagnose the injury and take appropriate action, causing the fracture to worsen to the point where surgical management was no longer an option, preventing the patient from regaining mobility.

We served a Letter of Claim on the Trust alleging that the fracture should have been diagnosed on her first hospital visit and plans put in place for her to undergo treatment of open reduction and internal fixation, followed by cast bracing, which would have allowed early partial to full weight bearing.

The independent medical expert went as far as to say that the long period of immobilisation could have contributed to her death.

The Trust admitted breaching its duty of care to the patient and made an initial offer of £8,000 by way of compensation.

Following negotiations between Hudgell Solicitors’ legal experts and the Trust’s lawyers, an out of court settlement of £13,500 was agreed.

Hudgell Solicitors comment

Kirsty Yates, a specialist in handling cases of medical negligence, said: “This was a sad case as this elderly patient had a relatively active and independent home life prior to suffering this injury; as a result of poor medical treatment she was left immobile and subsequently lost her independence which impacted on her life significantly. 

“It was the opinion of the independent expert we consulted as part of the case that being left immobile for four months could well have contributed to her death from pneumonia and heart failure. It was a straight-forward fracture which hospitals deal with every day. Sadly the errors caused this lady to spend the final four months of her life in pain and discomfort and, quite rightly, this is something her family wanted to address and challenge.”

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