Our client instructed us as clinical negligence solicitors in regards to a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer compensation case.
Unfortunately, her illness proved fatal before the case was concluded, leaving her husband to pursue a claim on behalf of our client’s estate and their three children. The compensation claim had two aspects: a delayed diagnosis of Paget’s disease (a condition where the normal cycle of bone renewal and repair is disrupted), by approximately three months, and a subsequent delayed diagnosis in spinal metastases (spinal tumours).
Our role, as clinical negligence solicitors, was to investigate all aspects of the compensation claim and advise our client throughout on merit, risk and value. The nature of the claim changed upon the death of our client, meaning that we needed to look at issues of dependency as well.
The liability experts were both of the opinion that, given the type and stage of cancer, our client ought to have had survival prospects greater than 50% both at the time of actual diagnosis of her pagets disease, but also at the time, three months earlier, when it was alleged that diagnosis ought to have been made. For that reason, the defendant argued that our client must have had a “bad” cancer and she would have succumbed in any event. Our expert argued that this flew in the face of clinical research and studies, which emphasised the importance of early cancer diagnosis and treatment — especially in cases involving aggressive and fast growing cancers. The case was unusual in this respect. More often with delayed diagnosis of cancer cases, the focus is on trying to establish that the prospects of survival have fallen from over 50% to less than 50% as a result of the delay in diagnosis. We argued on behalf of our client’s estate that the delay in cancer diagnosis had led to: a reduction in life expectancy and more complex surgery; prolonged pain; and suffering in relation to the spinal metastases.
The case required sensitive handling throughout. Following the death of our client, her husband was left having to raise and financially support their three children alone. The claim eventually settled for £100,000. This included individual awards going to our client’s three children for their loss of financial and emotional dependency on their mother, and ultimately the damaging effects this could have.
Apportionment of the settlement needed to be carefully calculated, not least because the youngest child was under the age of 18 and, therefore, his share of the award required court approval in accordance with CPR 21 (Children and Protected Parties). The settlement provided their children with a legacy from their mother and a head start in their adult life. It also enabled our client’s husband to pay off a significant part of his mortgage, which had been a financial burden following the sad death of his wife.