When a retired professional dancer suffered ongoing problems from a negligently performed hip replacement, Truth Legal were able to secure her £55,000 in compensation.
This was despite a determination from the responsible medical organisation to resist her clinical negligence claim right up until a trial date was set.
An undersized hip replacement
Our client, Rita,* noticed increasing pain in her right hip and went to hospital to have it investigated. After various consultations, she underwent a total right hip replacement operation, performed by an orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Goodall.*
This replacement hip should have lasted Rita for the rest of her life – but problems emerged almost immediately afterwards.
A post-operative x-ray, taken a few days after the hip replacement, showed that the implanted hip had been placed in a ‘varus’ position. That is, in a position with the hip joint rotated so that the thigh bone was lifted slightly upwards and outwards.
Just under a year after the operation, Rita was again experiencing pain and discomfort in her right hip. This was initially diagnosed as tendonitis and she was given an ultrasound guided steroid injection. However, the symptoms remained.
Rita had been transferred into the care of a new surgeon earlier in the year and, shortly after the steroid injection, they identified issues around the hip joint which suggested the implant was failing. Rita’s mobility was becoming more limited. She could only walk short distances and needed a stick to help her. Her gait was also altered by the difficulties she was having. She underwent several further procedures to remove a build-up of fluid from around the hip joint.
Nearly 2 years after her hip replacement operation, Rita received a diagnosis that the replacement hip had been undersized and had been incorrectly positioned. As a result, she had a revision operation to her hip replacement. The original hip replacement had lasted less than 2.5 years.
How it affected Rita
The problems with her hip had significant effects on Rita’s quality of life. She was suffering from ongoing pain, she was unable to bend and lift heavy items and she required care and assistance from her husband who had to help her with dressing, travelling and housework.
Before the problems with her hip, Rita had organised and performed in dance shows – which she put on to entertain care home residents. The failed hip replacement prevented any chance of her returning to perform in these shows.
Rita and her husband regularly looked after their grandchildren in the middle of each week, but due to her symptoms and protracted recovery she was unable to do so for a long period. It was only several months after the revision operation that she was well enough to look after them again.
This was all alongside the need to make numerous trips to the hospital and treatment to try to ease her symptoms, including physiotherapy.
Truth Legal take on her case
Shortly before her hip replacement revision surgery, Rita contacted Truth Legal for advice on her rights. She had been told by the surgeon now treating her that the replacement hip Mr Goddard had fitted was too small and not right for her. And she felt it was wrong that she should suffer this impact on her life all because the original hip replacement had not been done with sufficient care.
Rita instructed Truth Legal to begin a compensation claim for her.
The hip operation had been carried out through a company who contracted with the NHS to provide certain treatments at the hospital which Rita attended. The claim was directed towards this company, as they were responsible for Mr Goddard’s actions, and owed a duty of care to Rita.
It was argued that they had failed in this duty of care in the following ways:
- That Mr Goddard had not properly assessed Rita for the sizing of her hip implant
- That he had used an undersized hip implant
- That he had placed the femoral stem of the implant in a varus position (explained above)
- That he had carried out the hip replacement operation to an unacceptable standard
And, it was argued, as a result of these surgical errors, Rita had suffered injury and financial harm.
The claim is defended
The company defended the claim, arguing that a responsible body of orthopaedic opinion would have acted in the same way as Mr Goddard in the selection of the implant and positioning of the femoral stem. They also argued that the operation had been carried out with appropriate care and skill.
Expert medical opinion from appropriately qualified and impartial experts is crucial in clinical negligence claims. In this case, the medical experts instructed by each side disagreed over whether Mr Goddard’s conduct had been negligent.
One expert thought that the varus positioning of the implant had not made the hip replacement any more prone to failure in itself, but that it indicated the surgery had not be performed correctly and that this had caused Mr Goddard to use an undersized implant. The expert believed this to be the reason for the early failure of the hip replacement. The other expert held that the implant had in fact been appropriately sized and the operation conducted adequately.
Tellingly however, Mr Goddard himself did not provide any statement to support the defence of the claim. There was also no evidence in the clinical records of the method he had used to assess Rita in order to size her hip implant.
It was only after a trial date had been set, and following forceful negotiations, that the company’s insurers finally agreed to settle the claim for £55,000. £24,000 of this was for Rita’s injury, with the rest made in respect of her other losses.
Gary Warriner, Truth Legal’s Head of Clinical Negligence, who handled Rita’s claim, had this to say:
“While the claim was eventually settled, it is another example of a claim being defended when it should not have been, serving only to increase delay in the matter and the costs eventually payable. I was pleased we could help Rita to start to put this matter life changing matter behind her: she had to fight a long time for justice for her and her family”
Could Truth Legal help you after a medical accident?
If you believe that surgical mistakes or sub-standard medical care may have caused you injuries, you can get in contact with us to find out more about your rights.
*All names have been changed to maintain the confidentiality of our client