On 23rd April 2019 HH Judge Freedman, sitting as a Judge of the High Court approved a settlement on behalf of MB in the sum of £1.5 million.
The court also made an anonymity order. The form of the anonymity order made was unusual, the parties having agreed that the standard form of anonymity order, based upon High Court Practice Form 10, is unsatisfactory for a number of technical reasons..
MB had been severely brain damaged while an in-patient at St George’s Hospital, Morpeth, following a choking incident. The hospital is a psychiatric hospital and MB had been detained there under the Mental Health Act.
It was alleged that the nursing staff should have kept watch on MB throughout the day so as to prevent the type of incident that occurred.
Liability was disputed for several years, but Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability in late 2016 and agreed to pay the Claimant £1.5 million on the last working day before the quantum trial. The value of the claim was limited by MB’s short life expectancy.
There were two principal issues in the claim.
First, should the claimant be cared for in her own home or in residential care? A home care regime would cost over twice as much as a residential care regime.
Secondly, should the claimant have to give credit for the expensive care she would have needed even if the choking incident at St George’s had not occurred? She would have to give credit unless the care that she needed post-accident was “qualitatively different” from the care that she would have required had the accident not occurred – see Reaney v North Staffs NHS 2016 PIQR, Q3.
One of the factors influencing settlement was that if MB had succeeded in establishing a qualitative difference in care the Trust might well have appealed and obtained a stay of a substantial sum pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal and possibly beyond. The very limited life expectancy of MB made this difficult to countenance.
Howard Elgot was instructed by David Bradshaw of Hay and Kilner, Solicitors.