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Written on 26th March 2020 by Richard Money-Kyrle

Boyes Turner’s spinal injury lawyers have secured an admission of liability for a man who was rendered tetraplegic after falling from the chair where he was left to sleep after unnecessary spinal surgery.

Rehabilitation costs

Judgment has been entered and a substantial interim payment obtained to meet the claimant’s immediate needs for adapted accommodation, nursing care, rehabilitation, physiotherapy and specialist equipment whilst we work with the claimant and experts to fully value the claim.

The claimant was referred to hospital after he injured his neck whilst plastering a ceiling. He was advised to undergo a C5/6 fusion operation for his neck pain. Surgery was complicated by a dural tear (a recognised complication of spinal surgery) with a leakage of cerebro-spinal fluid. The claimant was discharged home where he developed severe neck and arm pain together with headaches and bleeding from his wound site. 

The claimant was readmitted to hospital with suspected cardiac problems. ECG (recording the electrical activity of heart) was found to be normal. There was no cardiac cause of his symptoms. The claimant was suffering from an evolving spinal haematoma due to his dural tear causing pain and later mobility difficulties. 

Spinal cord injury

The claimant received inadequate post-operative pain relief, and when he was unable to get into his bed he was left to fall asleep in a chair. He fell face forwards out of the chair in his sleep, suffering a catastrophic injury to his spinal cord. 

After his fall he complained that he was paralysed but when the nurse couldn't lift him he was hoisted into a bed by two porters with no attempt made to protect his spine. He continued to complain that he couldn't move his legs and had weakness in his hands but was denied a neurological examination (and the chance of neurological recovery from a surgical cervical decompression) because a doctor assumed his problems to be ‘psychological’.

It was only when he developed urinary retention that a CT myelogram was organised and a diagnosis made of a C6 level spinal cord injury resulting from his fall.

The claimant is now tetraplegic. He is wheelchair bound, unable to work, requires full-time care, and specialist support.

Allegations of negligence

The allegations of negligence made on the claimant’s behalf were numerous:

  • A failure to properly identify the cause of his symptoms before surgery (with proper analysis of his symptoms surgery would or should not have been recommended and so his subsequent problems would have been avoided)
  • A failure to obtain informed consent for surgery (had the issues been properly discussed the claimant would not have undergone surgery and his subsequent problems would have been avoided)
  • A failure to arrange for neurological assessment when it was clear there was not a cardiac cause for the pain (which would have identified evolving spinal haematoma with the result he would have been treated and his fall and catastrophic spinal injury avoided)
  • A failure to adequately provide pain relief (with proper pain relief he would have been able to mobilise with assistance to get into bed)
  • A failure to help him into bed (which would have avoided the fall and spinal injury)
  • A failure to protect his spine after his fall
  • A delay in investigating his paralysis after his fall (prompt diagnosis and treatment would or should have resulted in treatment which would have improved his long term condition)

Despite the defendant hospital’s own investigation report conclusions that there had been a significant failure in the claimant’s care, the hospital defended the claim though court proceedings until finally admitting negligence when they were required by the court to serve the expert evidence which supported their defence. 

If you have suffered a spinal injury as a result of negligence please contact our specialist spinal injury solicitors on 0118 952 7219 or email