Background

Ms Mitcheson was born with a condition which led to the cartilage behind her left knee cap being eroded. She had lots of operations in her teens but was warned that she would need major knee surgery when she got older.

Aged 37, she came under the care of a surgeon, Mr Kluge at Bradford Royal Infirmary. He planned to carry out a procedure to treat her left knee cap. However, and for reasons that are still unclear, he actually carried out a totally different operation (a total knee replacement) which left Ms Mitcheson's damaged knee cap untreated.

Initially, probably as a "placebo" affect, Ms Mitcheson felt a little better after the operation. However, this quickly wore off and she began to suffer all the old problems of "crunching" and giving way of her knee.

She went back to Bradford Royal Infirmary in June 2006, and was told that her patella had been left untreated and that as a consequence she needed a further operation to repair it: this was a huge blow to Ms Mitcheson, who had hoped that the operation in 2005 was a "once and for all" procedure.

She went into hospital again on 11th October 2006 and this time her kneecap was successfully treated. However, in the course of this operation, she contracted a devastating infection which led her to undergo a 2 stage knee revision procedure in February and March of 2007. Despite successfully treating the infection, Ms Mitcheson was left with a permanent swollen, stiff, painful and immobile left leg. She underwent pain management and intensive rehabilitation however, her leg did not improve and on 15th August 2010 she had an above the knee amputation.

Ms Mitcheson came to Russell-Cooke after previous solicitors advised her that she did not have a case.

A further medical report was obtained from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and this report confirmed that the operation performed, namely a left total knee replacement, was negligent because the surgeon had removed parts of the knee which were perfectly healthy and left in and un-treated the only part of the knee that was damaged, namely the arthritic knee cap.

The legal case

Following receipt of this report and a report into Ms Mitcheson's condition and prognosis, a detailed Letter of Claim was sent to the hospital. The Letter of Claim argued that the choice of operation was negligent and that Ms Mitcheson had not been properly consented about the operation.

The hospital sent a detailed Response, defending the choice of operation and its surgeon's approach to the issue of consent.

Legal proceedings were issued on 15th June 2009. A Defence was received on 22nd January 2010, which asserted that the claim was statute barred, namely that Ms Mitcheson had not issued her proceedings in time, the Defendant again reiterated that its choice of operation was fully discussed with Ms Mitcheson and justified because she had arthritis in 3 parts of her knee. The Defendant also argued that the infection was not caused by the second operation.

Detailed Witness Statements on the issues of negligence were prepared and exchanged with the Defendant. The Defendant's Statements from its surgeons again argued that the total knee replacement was justified and that they had meticulously explained the procedure to Ms Mitcheson.

The next step in the case was the exchange of expert reports. Firstly the Defendant sought an extension of time, then the Defendant sought to negotiate on liability and when its approaches were rejected, it finally made an admission that the choice of the operation was negligent and that the second operation had introduced infection into Ms Mitcheson's knee.

Medical evidence

Ms Mitcheson was examined by experts for both teams. Reports were obtained from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Consultant in Rehabilitative Medicine, and a Consultant Psychiatrist.

In addition, further reports were obtained from an Occupational Therapist dealing with care, aids and equipment, a Physiotherapist, Prosthetic expert (to advise on the best false limb) and an Accommodation expert to comment on Ms Mitcheson's current accommodation and that which would be required in the future as a consequence of the Defendant's negligence.

The settlement

The figure agreed at was £1.8million and a rough breakdown of the award, is as follows:-
General Damages                               £90,000

Past losses
Earnings (at the time of incident, the Claimant had just qualified as a Hairdresser but had no meaningful work history for 13 years as she had been a housewife)
Care and domestic assistance              £50,000
Travel                                                  £12,000
Miscellaneous expenses                      £22,000
Domestic assistance                           £8,000 
                                                         £92,000

Future losses:
Earnings                                            £158,000 
(N.B. credit was given for a residual of earning capacity)
Care                                                  £120,000
Case Management                             £15,000
Aids & Equipment                              £60,000
Motor expenses                                 £90,000
Services                                            £45,000
Travel                                                £10,000
Future prosthesis                               £600,000
Future physiotherapy                          £20,000
Future accommodation                       £500,000
                                                        £1,618,000

Grand total                                    £1,800,000

In addition the Defendant also agreed to pay Ms Mitcheson's costs.
The Claim was funded by way of a "No Win, no Fee Agreement"