Janice Gardner, of Russell-Cooke's Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury department, has this week settled a high profile clinical negligence case against Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on behalf of actress Lesley Ash. The case has received a lot of media attention because of the significant amount of damages (£5m) awarded to Ms Ash, which was the highest ever paid out by the Trust for a hospital-acquired infection case.

Ms Ash was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 23rd April 2004 suffering from fractured ribs and a punctured lung. She was given a epidural to control the pain on 24th April and discharged on 28th April. However, before she left, Ms Ash noticed a boil had appeared on her back. She mentioned this to a nurse who failed to report it to the doctor and Ms Ash was sent home without it being examined.

Within 12 hours of being at home, Ms Ash began to develop a creeping paralysis of the lower limbs. Chelsea & Westminster Hospital were called and a message conveyed to the surgeon who immediately sent an ambulance to take Ms Ash to Charing Cross Hospital. On the 29th Apr she was diagnosed with a life threatening infected abscess and underwent emergency neurosurgery to cut out the infection. Although her life was saved, Ms Ash was left with permanent nerve damage and paralysis as a result of the surgery.

Ms Ash had to go through months of rehabilitation in order to be able to walk again. She has lost her innate sense of balance, and will always need the aid of a stick to walk. She is in constant pain and has been unable to work as an actress as she had before.

Russell-Cooke were instructed in 2004 and proceedings were issued against the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in November 2006. The Trust admitted breach of duty in respect of the nurse's conduct and agreed that this exacerbated Ms Ash's condition although they argued that some of the injuries were by that stage inevitable. However, after exchanging expert evidence between the parties, the Trust reopened negotiations.

The case was listed for trial on 1st April 2008 but an amicable settlement of £5m was reached 16th January 2008. The bulk of the award was for Ms Ash's loss of earnings but also took into account costs for her rehabilitation and her past and ongoing care. Ms Ash had suffered catastrophic injuries which ruined her career.

Russell-Cooke took Ms Ash's case on a conditional fee basis (‘no win, no fee').

For more information about this case please contact Janice Gardner:
020 8394 6569
janice.gardner@russell-cooke.co.uk