GP failure to diagnose meningitis

This was an extremely complex and challenging case.

The circumstances were that at 18 months old our client contracted meningitis. As a result of a delay in referral to hospital by his GP he suffered hearing loss, a significant speech and language disorder and a range of cognitive impairments most significantly causing memory problems.

The injuries set out above are not typical of a delayed diagnosis of meningococcal septicaemia and this made the investigation of the claim very difficult and time consuming.

There were several occasions upon which we received unsupportive medical expert evidence and it looked as though we might have to discontinue the investigations but we persevered and were greatly assisted by expert opinion from specialists in general practice, paediatrics, paediatric neurology, paediatric infectious diseases, speech and language therapy and neuropsychology.

In addition to the fact that the pattern of injuries seen in the Claimant were not typical of those usually seen after meningococcal septicaemia, we also had to build our case in relation to how and when the various aspects of damage developed, so as to be able to prove which of those aspects of damage would have been avoided with earlier diagnosis.

Eventually however, we reached a stage by which we were in a position to present a sustainable claim to the Defendant.

Proceedings were issued and served.

At a relatively early stage the GP’s Defendant admitted that he should have referred our client to hospital immediately and made an offer in the sum of £400,000.00. At that stage we did not have any evidence upon which to value the claim but rejected the Defendant’s offer nonetheless because it was felt to be too low.

The claim was quantified with the help of experts in care, occupational therapy aids and equipment and assistive technology and prepared for a trial on quantum (the value of the case). A Joint Settlement Meeting took place several weeks before trial but the negotiation was difficult and as a result the parties failed to come to terms.

However, two days before the pre-trial review and just over two weeks before the start of the trial the Defendant made an offer in the sum of £1.7 million.

Our realistic valuation was £1.5 million and in the circumstances it was considered that an offer of £1.7 million should be accepted.

The settlement was approved by the Court because our client’s cognitive impairments meant that he did not have the ‘capacity’ to manage either the litigation or his damages.