Seven-Figure Settlement For Brain Damaged Woman

Woman Receives Compensation After Medical Mistakes

15.10.2009

A leading north east personal injury lawyer has secured a seven-figure settlement to provide lifelong care for a County Durham woman after medical mistakes left her with a 10-minute memory.

Cristina Malcolm, now 41, collapsed in her bathroom with what is now suspected to have been a brain haemorrhage in July 2002, but the problem went undetected at the time by her GP and hospital staff.

Two weeks later, she suffered a bigger, more serious haemorrhage and was transported to Newcastle General Hospital under emergency police escort where she underwent life-saving surgery to remove half a litre of blood from her brain.

Cristina then spent the next nine weeks in intensive care and a total of 21 weeks in hospital and rehabilitation before being discharged home. The larger second haemorrhage left Cristina permanently brain damaged and unable to remember anything for more than 10 minutes.

Cristina effectively lives in a time bubble of 20 minutes where she is unable to plan more than 10 minutes into the future or remember 10 minutes into the past.

Her husband Sandy Malcolm, 47, instructed John Davis, partner and serious injury specialist at Irwin Mitchell, to pursue a compensation claim for gross clinical negligence. The action was taken against: Dr James Harrison of Chevely Park Medical Centre in Durham who was the GP who first visited Mrs Malcolm; County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals NHS Trust; and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust.

Hospital bosses accepted liability for 95 per cent of the total claim and an approval hearing this week confirmed the settlement figure of £4.46million, which will be used to provide the care and support that Mrs Malcolm needs for the rest of her life.

John Davis, partner at Irwin Mitchell in Newcastle, said he was pleased with today’s result: “This is a significant settlement and one which leaves Cristina Malcolm secure for the rest of her life, while Mr Malcolm will be given the freedom to concentrate on being a husband rather than a full-time carer.

“Mr and Mrs Malcolm have had their lives torn apart by this series of medical mistakes. Cristina now requires a substantial amount of care and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.

“There are a whole host of other support services beyond the 24-hour care needs that Cristina has. No amount of money can truly compensate for the constant battle that Cristina and Sandy now face, but with good care and rehab therapy it may be possible to restore some quality of life for them both.”

However, Mr Malcolm says the settlement has not lessened his anguish over the mistakes by medical staff who failed to treat his wife correctly and says her second brain haemorrhage could have been prevented if medical staff had examined and treated her properly.

He said: “It is seven years since Cristina collapsed and the confirmation of the settlement is a huge relief, however Cristina could have received this care much earlier if the defendant’s lawyers had admitted liability earlier and had come to a settlement that we have reached today. I know now that whatever happens to me in the future, she will be cared for. This settlement will be managed and administered by the Court of Protection that will ensure Cristina’s financial and care requirements will be managed by a team of professionals for the rest of her life.

“I initially thought my wife had meningitis and I called Cristina’s GP, Dr James Harrison of Chevely Park Surgery in Durham, to come to our house on a Saturday morning as I believed if my wife did have meningitis then this had to be diagnosed as soon as possible.

“Dr Harrison had all the symptoms my wife was suffering from described to him and he failed to carry out and record the most basic information required by a GP. His examination consisted of checking her pulse for 10 seconds and putting his hand on her forehead to check her temperature then he made a quick diagnosis of a virus.

“Medical convention dictates that a sudden onset of a severe headache which is novel to the patient should be treated as a brain haemorrhage until proven otherwise and Dr Harrison should have recognised the fact that he had a medical emergency on his hands and immediately admitted my wife to hospital.

“Instead he attributed it to a routine virus and we lost three crucial days that could have vastly changed the potential for the hospital staff to detect the first haemorrhage.  That delay reduced the chances of the doctors detecting the problem by almost 40 per cent.

“Had Cristina been admitted to hospital by Dr Harrison then the hospital could have detected the initial haemorrhage and could have vastly changed the way Cristina was managed. Had this initial haemorrhage been detected then she had a strong possibility of being treated, recovering from the haemorrhage and returning to a normal life.

“If anything comes out of our ordeal, I want it to be that nobody else endures the nightmare of what we have been through, and continue to go through.

“None of this has been about retribution against the GP or the hospital. In bringing this legal action all I wanted was to ensure that Cristina will be able to spend the rest of her life in comfort and security and with a support structure around her that will be able to compensate for her memory loss. Nothing will ever be able to make her better – our lives have been utterly destroyed by this.

“I strongly want people to realise that sudden, severe headaches which are unique to the sufferer should only be diagnosed at a hospital – and must be treated as a possible brain haemorrhage until it is proven to be otherwise.

“Brain haemorrhages are one of the biggest causes of sudden death among otherwise-healthy young adults and my experience makes me wonder how many of those deaths or severe injuries like my wife’s could have been prevented.”