Dad-Of-Three Left Profoundly Deaf After Out Of Hours Doctor Misdiagnoses His Symptoms

Medical Law Experts Secure Settlement To Help Man Communicate With His Family Again


A father-of-three left profoundly deaf after an out-of-hours doctor failed to recognise that his symptoms related to a middle ear infection associated with meningitis has spoken of the ‘total isolation’ he now feels as a result of the failures in his care.

Peter Lovell is speaking out for the first time after medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell secured him a £500,000 settlement from Dr Patrick Fingleton who worked for Devon Doctors Ltd, just months before the case was due to go to trial and after all other steps in the case had been completed.

But Peter, from Salcombe Regis in Devon, says he remains frustrated and angry at receiving no apology or admission of liability from the GP given the huge impact the meningitis has had on his life.

The 48-year-old began to feel unwell with an earache and headache on 28 September 2008 and the following day, felt a pop in his ear which led to a discharge of blood.

His symptoms worsened that evening to the point that his wife Judy became so concerned that she called the out-of-hours GP service. At 10.50pm that evening, Dr Fingleton called Peter back to run through his symptoms and said it sounded like he had an ear infection and the ear drum had perforated. 

Despite Peter stressing the severity of his headache and other symptoms, the call ended with the doctor advising him to book in with his GP in the morning as he may need antibiotics and said ’12 hours isn’t going to make any difference to it’.

But the following day Peter collapsed at home after being violently sick and was rushed to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital where he was admitted to intensive care after being diagnosed with meningitis which was later confirmed to be secondary to a middle ear infection known as otitis media. 
After being in a coma for eight days, Peter woke to find he was completely deaf and suffering from severe tinnitus (constant ringing) in both ears as a result of the meningitis causing neurological damage, as well as suffering problems with balance and memory loss – he thought his 20 and 18-year-old children were only two and six weeks old and could not remember having a three-year-old daughter at the time.

Expert medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell instructed by Peter in 2011 commissioned expert evidence which found that Dr Fingleton breached his duty of care by:
• Failing to consider the symptoms were suggestive of a middle ear infection that has a risk of multiple complications including meningitis;
• Wrongly concluding, despite Peter’s symptoms of worsening headache, dislike of light and fever, that a middle ear infection could be safely excluded without a medical examination;
• Failing to take a full history of Peter’s symptoms which would have identified the need for an urgent hospital referral for appropriate treatment.

The evidence found that if Peter had been admitted to hospital in the immediate hours after the phone call, intravenous antibiotics would have been given which would have prevented the meningitis from developing and causing the profound deafness.

Insurers representing Dr Fingleton refused to agree an admission of liability but have now agreed to pay the £500,000 settlement to cover Peter’s on-going treatment costs, specialist hearing equipment he now needs and cover his loss of earnings as he has had to give up his job as a fireplace manufacturer.

Natalie Jones, is a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s South West office representing him.

Peter added: Peter added: “I could not have imagined the total isolation that sudden profound deafness can bring and I doubt I will ever really get used to it. The tinnitus is probably the worst part as it is just constant and loud in my head – it never stops – and I get very frustrated.

“My little girl was only three when I became deaf so I never got to hear her read or speak properly which I have found very upsetting.

“Given all of this I feel I am at least entitled to an apology and for the doctor to hold his hands up and admit he should have done more for me, but not once has this been forthcoming. It’s very hard not to feel some element of resentment towards him.

“Another major effect of my injuries is how they have stopped me from working which has obviously had a huge financial impact on the entire family.

“However, the settlement will ease the financial pressure we have faced over the last six years and I’m looking forward to having access to therapy, equipment and coping strategies that will make communication easier for me and the family. 

“Although this amount of money won’t last a lifetime it has enabled us to purchase a house outright so we will never have to worry about rent or mortgages again giving me peace of mind that my wife and children will be secure if anything were to happen to me. If Irwin Mitchell had not been involved we would probably be relying on food banks to survive each week and for that I am eternally grateful.”


Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Medical Negligence Claims and Doctor Negligence Claims