Tees secures settlement for family after avoidable DVT and fatal pulmonary embolism

David Gabell and Janine Collier recently acted for a widow and his three adult children in a case arising out of failure to administer appropriate prophylactic treatment to F, a 63 year old lady.

F underwent routine knee surgery and was known to be at risk of developing DVT following surgery. She died 11 days after surgery from a pulmonary embolism.

Case Summary 

F, 64 at the time of her death, had been fit, active, and sporty before she suffered a right medial meniscal tear knee injury in March 2009. F was advised to undergo an arthroscopy, partial meniscectomy and debridement of the right knee. The pre-operative assessment notes recorded that F had a history of bi-lateral blood clots and varicose vein surgery. 

Surgery was performed as a day case at the Scarborough hospital on the 12th January 2010.  The routine nursing pre-operative assessment again noted F’s history of blood clots and varicose veins.  F’s surgery lasted little more than 25 minutes and proceeded without complication. F was discharged later that day with pain killers and an outpatient appointment for 6 weeks thereafter. 

Once home, F was unable to straighten her leg and was in a good deal of discomfort. Over the next few days her leg and ankle swelled and continued to cause her a lot of pain. She performed the post-operative exercises that she had been given diligently and to the best of her ability. 

On the morning of the 23rd January 2010 (11 days post-operatively) F’s condition rapidly declined. She told her husband that she felt faint and needed to lie down. She struggled to stay awake, despite her husband’s best efforts to keep her conscious. Her husband called for an ambulance but sadly F drifted off to sleep and died in her husband’s arms. 

A post-mortem report concluded that the cause of death was pulmonary embolism, originating from Deep Vein Thrombosis of the right leg. 

It was alleged that there was a failure to heed adequately or at all, her risk factors for venous thromboembolism; and that there was a failure to take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of DVT occurring through methods of mechanical (e.g. provision of TED stockings); nor was she prescribed any form of chemical prophylaxis, such as low molecular weight Heparin. Had F received appropriate prophylaxis, on the balance of probabilities, she would not have developed a DVT and subsequent fatal pulmonary embolism. 

The Defendant made no admissions as to liability but indicated that they were keen to explore settlement. 

The claim included a claim on behalf of F’s estate for her unnecessary pain and suffering, and also four dependency claims: for her husband and three adult children, all of whom, in various ways, incurred a financial loss as a result of her death.

Of particular note was the loss incurred by one of F’s daughters, for whom F had helped with childcare. F had used to look after her grandchildren from Monday to Friday, allowing her daughter to work full time. Following F’s death, the daughter had to pay for private childcare and reduce her working hours which resulted in a significant financial loss. 

Following negotiations, the claim settled for £140,000, broken down as follows:

  •  F’s estate: £2,000 (PSLA)
  •  F’s husband: £103,250
  •  Son F’s £2,500
  •  F’s first daughter £1,250
  •  F’s second daughter £31,000 

Following settlement Tees Financial assisted F’s widow and second daughter with provision of financial advice.

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