Medical Negligence – Paraplegic recovers $2.5M
Melissa was 38 years old when she attempted suicide by jumping from a third floor balcony. Melissa did not die in the fall but suffered a crush fracture of her vertebrae and as a result is paraplegic. Melissa had a long history of mental illness and a few days before her fall she had been admitted to a public hospital after another failed suicide attempt in which she had taken a vast quantity of Valium. The hospital initially made an involuntary treatment order under the Mental Health Act but then removed the order early the next day. Melissa was discharged home to the care of her daughter who was then only 17 years of age. Melissa was still under the effects of the Valium that she had taken the day before.
Melissa became a paraplegic as a result of the fall. This combined with her mental health issues has made her life extremely difficult. She requires assistance with most activities of daily living, particularly showering and transport. She requires assistance with her personal care and housework. She has been lucky to have the support of her mother and daughter who have helped her enormously with her injuries.
Our Medical Negligence team qualified three expert psychiatrists to comment on the treatment Melissa received at the hospital. The experts said she should not have been discharged into the care of a 17-year old. Further, they commented that the follow-up, in which a community nurse visited Melissa daily, was also inadequate given what had occurred.
The matter was very hard-fought by the defendant. We fought a number of interlocutory applications by the defendant seeking orders to Amend the Statement of Claim and plead the limitation periods. The matter had two mediations and resolved at the second mediation for the sum of $2.5 million inclusive of costs. This was an excellent result given the complexities of the issues and the expert evidence served by the defendant. Melissa and her family were very grateful for the result which will make her life more comfortable in the future.