As a medical lawyer with Cantillons Solicitors, I work exclusively in the area of medical negligence claims. This blog discusses why we will always take on the best experts when involved in medical negligence litigation, a complex yet intriguing and rewarding journey which I embark upon daily, in serving the needs of my clients.
Medical negligence cases take all sorts of shapes and sizes. At Cantillons Solicitors, our experience ranges from a catastrophic injury type cases, for example cerebral palsy/birth injury cases, to cases where tumours are missed, the wrong medication is prescribed, a failure to investigate ongoing symptoms, a failure to diagnose a fracture, to the more contemporary case of a plastic surgery procedure generating a poor outcome.
In order to succeed in a medical negligence case, one must prove both breach of duty and causation.
Breach of duty or negligence arises where it can be proven that no other doctor of like expertise, skill and experience, would have acted likewise, if faced with the same set of circumstances. In other words, the care afforded to the patient fell below the requisite standard. It is not enough to say another doctor would have acted differently. Proof of negligence goes much further than that.
Causation arises where it can be proven that “but for” the negligent act or omission, the outcome would have been different. A very simple example that I give to Clients when I am trying to explain this framework is the case of Barnett v Chelsea & Kensington Hospital Management Committee**. In that case, a workman was turned away from hospital having become unwell after drinking tea. It transpired that the tea was poisoned with arsenic. The man died. His widow sued the hospital for negligently discharging him, but she lost her case. The Defendants expert evidence succeeded in establishing that, given the amount of time which elapsed between when the deceased ingested the arsenic and his presentation to hospital, he was in fact going to die anyway. The fact that he was discharged from the hospital had no bearing on the ultimate outcome which was going to be death, whether or not he was admitted. It was the arsenic and not the doctor’s failure to see the patient that caused his death.
Once we have established in our own minds that there is a stateable case in medical negligence, we then proceed to brief an independent medical expert who has the experience and qualifications to say as much in his/her report. By law, it is not for us as laypersons to say a medical professional was negligent. Only another independent doctor/ nurse/ midwife /pharmacist (as the case may be) can say so. This is where expert evidence becomes pivotal to the winning or otherwise of a case.
At Cantillons Solicitors, we are acutely aware of the hurdles injured Plaintiffs must overcome in order to successfully prosecute a medical negligence action. Essentially, each Plaintiff is “taking on the system”, a medical system which defends its own. It is easy for a Defendant medical doctor, nurse, midwife or pharmacist to find an expert to defend his/her actions. Frankly, from experience, we can say that it is impossible for a Plaintiff to find such a witness, particularly in this jurisdiction, where the medical community is so small. Above all else, objectivity is crucial. Experts have a primary duty to the Court and they swear on oath that the evidence given will be the full truth, their own truth.
At Cantillons Solicitors, we have a large database of independent medico legal experts from whom reports are commissioned in respect of our clients’ cases. We have developed a rapport and working relationship with many of them, but we are always on the lookout for more. With cutting edge advances in medical treatments and technology, we are constantly striving to ensure the experts we call upon to represent our clients are at the very top of their respective fields.
The experts we retain at Cantillons Solicitors are oftentimes expensive, but we make no apology for this. With the best input does one get the best results. It is the best results we have become so well known for. To get such results, we gather the best team, for the ultimate benefit of each and every client.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.
**  1 Queen's Bench 428