£5m Settlement For Woman Left Brain Damaged After Long Ambulance Delay

Serious Injury Lawyers Secure Lifetime Care and Rehabilitation Package For Former Scientist


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A 36-year-old woman left with serious brain injuries after she collapsed and was forced to wait more than 100 minutes for an ambulance which was sat just 100 metres from her home has secured a £5m settlement which will provide care, support and rehabilitation for the rest of her life.

An ambulance was called for Caren Paterson after she collapsed and her lips had turned blue but because her flat’s address was inexplicably on a ‘high risk register’ the ambulance waited round the corner for a police escort. The delay has left her with a long-term brain injury and she suffers with chronic amnesia, anger outbursts, confusion and disorientation; she will now need 24-hour care for the rest of her life and is unable to work again.

Serious injury specialists at Irwin Mitchell have been working with Caren and her family to secure the settlement, consisting of a £1.4m lump sum and annual payments for the rest of her life, approved in the High Court in London today.

The funds will be managed by Irwin Mitchell’s Court of Protection team to ensure they last for her whole life as they will pay for specialist care, support and therapy as well as equipment for the rest of her life to let her live as independently as possible.

The London Ambulance Service admitted 11 separate breaches of duty that contributed to Ms Paterson’s injuries including:
• A delay in the ambulance attending the scene caused by a failure to comply with hospital trust policies
• The Emergency Centre of Operations’ failure to communicate properly and effectively both with the police and the caller
• Failure to react properly to the patient’s worsening condition

Ms Paterson collapsed in the bedroom of her Islington flat early in the afternoon of Saturday, 27 October 2007 and her condition quickly deteriorated – prompting her boyfriend to call 999 at 1.39pm and report that she was unconscious, breathing abnormally and her lips were blue.

However, because Police had previously been called to the Hargrave Road, Islington address, it was flagged as being on the ‘High Risk Address Register’ and the ambulance crew was told to wait for a police escort.

There were no police available at that time and, despite a further two 999 calls from her partner, the emergency medical team waited for over an hour just 100m from her flat.

Caren, who had a PhD in genetics and was working as a genetic scientist at King’s College, London, eventually suffered a cardiac arrest at around 3.15pm, five minutes before police and an ambulance team arrived. Though she survived, she has suffered a life-changing severe brain injury and has complicated long-term care needs.

John Davis, a specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Caren and her family, said:

At the time it was unknown why the address was on the high risk register and the Police made a decision to review the way emergency calls to homes on the High Risk Address Register were handled.

Caren was initially taken to the A&E Department at Whittington Hospital before being transferred to intensive care for seven days. Over the next few years she stayed at various hospitals before moving to a unit in North Yorkshire where she remains in care to this day, receiving on-going occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

Her mother, Eleanor Paterson, from Warkworth, Northumberland, said: “My daughter was a successful and ambitious scientist but it is so distressing that all of her ambitions have been taken away from her because of her brain injury.

“I was determined to ensure Caren had access to the best possible care and support for the rest of her life and it is such a huge relief that the settlement has been approved today.

“Clearly we would rather not be in this situation at all and nothing will ever return our daughter to how she was before. But it is a weight of our minds to know that she will now be able to continue to receive the care, treatment and specialist attention she needs.

“The thought of an ambulance crew sitting waiting round the corner while my daughter lay in her flat as her condition went from serious to life-threatening, causing irreparable damage to her brain, is still shocking and I hope no one ever has to go through what we have.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Head Injury Claims.