Girl paralysed after surgery wins right to compensation

A Lancashire teenager left paralysed for life after spinal surgery at Royal Preston Hospital has won the right to multi-million pound compensation from the NHS.

A High Court judge has ruled that Laura May, 16, of Kirkstall Drive, Chorley, was left in a wheelchair because of a "misplaced screw" inserted during her operation.

This led to a leakage of cerebro-spinal fluid.

Judge Mrs Justice Slade also ruled that the surgeon had been negligent by not using a particular imaging technique to make sure the screw was in the correct place, and the hospital trust had also failed to provide Spinal Cord Monitoring.

Laura's parents Christine and Bill, became concerned about their daughter when she was 11.

Christine noticed an abnormality on her spine during a shopping trip.

The High Court in London heard how Laura was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon and diagnosed with scoliosis – curvature of the spine.

Laura was referred to Roger Smith, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Preston Hospital and in February 2005, he undertook an operation to correct the curvature and to prevent further deterioration.

The surgery involved the insertion of screws, hooks and rods.

Laura went into the operation with "full use of her limbs" but when it was over, she was paraplegic and had lost movement in her body and limbs.

The court heard how at the time of the surgery, unlike other centres, Royal Preston Hospital did not offer Spinal Cord Monitoring (SPM).

A specialist told the court he did not know if there were other units in England which did not use SPM in 2005.

Ruling that Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was fully liable, the judge said in her ruling: "On the balance of probabilities, the failure of Mr Smith to use bi-planar imaging together with the failure of the trust to provide SCM caused the claimant to suffer damage to her spinal cord which resulted in her paraplegia."

The ruling means Laura could get millions of pounds in compensation to cover the care and equipment she will need for the rest of her life.

The exact sum has yet to be determined, but her lawyers are seeking a 250,000 "interim payment" for her to use until her final award.

Laura's parents said: "The actions of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have destroyed our lives.

"There is nothing we can do to repair our daughter's body, but the damages will ensure Laura receives the best care she can ."

Diane Rostron of Linder Myers Solicitors in Lytham, representing the family, said: "Laura and her family are pleased and relieved at the result and would like to extend their thanks to the experts, the legal team and the civil justice system."

Tony Curtis, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "I can confirm we have received the judgement.

"The NHS Litigation Authority will seek leave to appeal the decision and because of this we can not go into the details of the case or make any further comment at this time."

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