Case News - Ambulance Chasing?

3 March 2014

There has been a great deal of public concern about the response time to 999 calls by the ambulance service, and the consequences of delay.  In a recent High Court Judgment, the London Ambulance Service admitted negligence for delay in responding to a 999 call. (Leigh -v- London Ambulance Service[2014] EWHC 286 (QB) )

The facts were that on 17 November 2008, the claimant boarded a bus at Wimbledon station on her way home from work. As she went to sit down on a seat towards the back of the bus, she dislocated her right kneecap, found herself trapped between the seats and was unable to move Passengers went to her aid, held her down and called an ambulance.  During the next 50 minutes several calls were placed before an ambulance arrived.  Paramedics were able to provide pain relief and manipulate the dislocation back into place. It was accepted that a 17 minutes delay constituted a breach of duty of care on the part of the ambulance service. As a result of the delay, the claimant suffered pain and suffering from the dislocation and consequential psychiatric and psychological damage arising from the incident. She claimed compensation. It was agreed that, arising from the incident, she has suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was also agreed that, Ms Leigh had   suffered dissociative seizures, but the date when the seizures started was disputed.

 

Argument was put before the trial judge that the plaintiff would have suffered from PTSD in any event, regardless of the 17 minute delay. This was rejected. The delay had made a material contribution to the development of the claimant's PTSD. The second issue was whether the dissociative seizures were caused as a direct result of the PTSD. Having considered expert evidence and that of the claimant, the trial judge concluded the seizures were connected to the PTSD and not as a result of other outside life stressors.

 

Having considered the matter in detail, the trial judge awarded the following,

General damages: £60,000 plus interest at 3.7% Past losses : £116,002 plus interest at 2.57% Future losses : £346,377

 

Total : £522,379

 

Included in the award was £3250 for sound therapy costs. Although there was no mention of a suggestion for sound therapy in the medical notes, the trial judge accepted the plaintiff's evidence that she wanted to do everything she could to make herself better, and she had been told by one of the doctors that sound therapy may help. Refer to the judgment for other details.

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