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Leach v North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust [2020] EWHC 2914 (QB) (30 October 2020)


Leach v North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust [2020] EWHC 2914 (QB) (30 October 2020)

On 18 September 2016 C, at the age of 41 years, (born 15.02.75) had the misfortune to suffer a subarachnoid haemorrhage ("SAH") as a result of a ruptured aneurysm. Fortunately, she has made a good recovery from the SAH. Unhappily, however, she has developed a significant Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD")... [1]

Breach of duty in this case is admitted insofar as it is accepted that there was a 31-minute negligent period of delay in the ambulance arriving at C's house for the purposes of taking her to hospital. What is in dispute is whether the negligent period of delay has caused or contributed to the onset of the PTSD. [2]

...agreed quantum in the sum of £40,000 (or £20,000, if the court agreed to undertake an apportionment exercise) [3]

Bailey v The Ministry of Defence & Anor [2009] 1 WLR 1052...  I am satisfied that [is] the correct approach [13]

...the position is as follows:

i) If it can be shown that C would have developed PTSD, in any event, irrespective of the negligent period of delay, then the claim fails;

ii) If it can be shown that but for the period of negligent delay C would not have developed PTSD, then the claim succeeds;

iii) If, on the other hand, the evidence is incapable of supporting either of the two propositions set out above, then if it can be shown that the negligent period of delay has made a material contribution to the PTSD, the claim succeeds. [14]

D's case... is that C would have developed PTSD, in any event, irrespective of the period of negligent delay. C's case... was that it was not possible to say at what point the PTSD was triggered during the period between the claimant suffering the SAH and being taken to hospital in the ambulance. Further, it is submitted that given the duration of the period of negligent delay, being approximately one third of the total period of delay, it could be said, with confidence, that the latter period of delay had made a material contribution to the onset of the claimant's PTSD [15]

...the court is left with a binary decision... there is considerable force in the proposition... that medical science is not capable of dissecting that 31-minute period from the rest of the period of delay, so as to enable the inference to be drawn that PTSD would have occurred irrespective of the 31-minute delay. [38]

consideration needs to be given as to whether the theory that the PTSD would have arisen as a direct result of the SAH alone is sustainable. As it seems to me, it is certainly possible that from the moment when the claimant suffered her SAH, she was destined to go on to develop PTSD but to come to such a conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, is a step too far. Put simply, medical science does not permit such a conclusion to be drawn. [39]

...the period of the 31-minute delay made a material contribution to the claimant's PTSD and that an apportionment exercise is not permissible in these circumstances. Accordingly, there will be judgment for the claimant in the sum of £40,000. [44]

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