Case study: £18,500 settlement for care home negligence claim
Our medical negligence solicitors helped a family to claim compensation after an 89-year-old died as a result of negligence in a care home.
Our client, Mrs G, had been a resident at a care home for a number of years. At 89 years old, she was immobile and had not spoken for some years after suffering strokes and developing advanced vascular dementia. She was subject to a detailed care plan which specified that she required the assistance of two carers for all aspects of moving and handling including bathing, dressing and any change of position. The care plan noted that she was immobile and a full body hoist was needed for all transfers.
Concerns about care
In October 2018, Mrs G’snson observed that his mother had been transferred to a chair from her bed and was in another resident’s bedroom. This was not normal practice in relation to her care as she was generally confined to bed.
Six days later, Mrs G was found to have been dressed in trousers which would not have been done unless she had been, or was to be, transferred out of bed. Later that day, a carer attended Mrs G and noticed that there was swelling to her right thigh and that her right leg was resting at an unnatural angle. The carer reported this finding to a more senior member of staff at the care home and an ambulance was called.
Mrs G was taken to A&E where X-rays were taken. The X-rays revealed a displaced and angular fracture of the right femur. She had surgery to fix the fracture, where a metal rod was inserted into the bone. Mrs G remained as an inpatient until the end of November when she was discharged to a new care home.
Disciplinary action against care home after CQC inspection
Shortly after this incident, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an unannounced inspection at Mrs G’s previous care home. The inspection found breaches in two of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. There were also deficiencies in record keeping and a carer admitted to falsifying notes.
The CQC found the service of the care home was not consistently safe and an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ was given. Staff received moving and handling training, and disciplinary action was taken against a carer in relation to the care provided to Mrs G.
Starting a claim for negligence
Our medical negligence solicitors were instructed in November 2018, however, the litigation process was placed on hold whilst the Police investigated the incident. The Police concluded their investigations in February 2019 without bringing any charges so our team carried out their preliminary steps of the negligence claim.
Sadly, Mrs G passed away in October 2019. Her son continued the claim on her behalf in his capacity as executor of the estate. The outcome of the claim was of great importance to achieve a measure of compensation, given the negligence for his vulnerable mother and lack of apology from the care home.
Our lawyers wrote to the care home’s insurers at an early stage requesting they accept liability for the breach of duty, relying on the doctrine of ‘res ipsa loquitur’, meaning ‘the matter speaks for itself’. As Mrs G was immobile and had clearly suffered an injury, the only explanation could be the actions of the care home. An offer was made to the care home to settle the claim out of court.
Breach of duty of care and delay in treatment
Whilst the care home acknowledged that they breached their duty of care, they did not agree that their actions caused our client’s injuries and they did not engage in negotiations.
Our solicitors had to obtain further medical records and instruct a medical expert to comment on the cause of Mrs G’s fracture. The expert Orthopaedic Surgeon identified that our client had developed osteoporosis as a result of being bed-bound for many years which had caused a weakening of all her bones. However, he commented that the X-rays showed a very displaced fracture and the forces required to cause such a displaced fracture are considerable, even in patients such as Mrs G who have weakened bones due to osteoporosis.
The Orthopaedic expert believed that the fracture involved a rotational force applied to the lower limb through the rough handling during Mrs G’s care, and it was likely to have occurred within three weeks before it was identified by the carer in October 2018.
The care home advised that the records at the time of the incident had gone missing. This included the attendance notes which documented Mrs G’s care.
We sent the report to the care home’s solicitor on a without prejudice basis, after which, they engaged in negotiations with Barcan+Kirby and the case was settled out of court for £18,500 along with costs.
If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of negligence in a care home or at a hospital, including where treatment or diagnosis has been delayed, you may be eligible to claim compensation.