Medical Negligence case
Medical Negligence case – Damages for Loss of Society in Paterson v Lanarkshire Health Board 
Reviewed by Michaela Christie
This recent case considered the measure of damages that should be awarded under section 4 of the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, the Act for “loss of society”. This case focuses around the concept of “loss of society,” which pertains to the emotional impact experienced due to a tragic event, and the loss of emotional support and company of the deceased person. The expectation that the long relationship would have continued, and but for the accident a party finds themselves without the support and company of the deceased.
Background: The Heartbreaking Scenario
The deceased had suffered from Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder since she was a teenager and had been treated for her condition for a number of years. It was found that she had been discharged with unsatisfactory support. This resulted in the significant decline in her mental health leading to her attempted suicide. Despite being found by a close family member and taken to hospital, she sadly later died.
The Pursuit of Compensation: Seeking Justice
The mother of the deceased, referred to as the “First Pursuer,” took legal action to seek compensation for the insufficient support her daughter had received. During the trial, legal representatives argued that the responsibility of the deceased’s doctor should be viewed as a failure in treatment rather than merely a duty to prevent suicide. This reframing shifted the focus towards evaluating the quality of care and follow-up provided after the deceased left the hospital.
Critical Timeframe: Negligence and Consequences
The critical timeframe under consideration was the period between the deceased’s hospital discharge and her untimely passing. Evidence presented in court demonstrated a foreseeable risk of the deceased attempting suicide during this interval. Previous instances of the deceased’s illness were brought to light, including occasions when she had been sedated due to severe episodes and subsequently stabilised with medication. It was evident that continuous treatment was vital for her stability. The absence of proper psychiatric follow-up care contributed to her mental health deteriorating, which was attributed to negligence.
Judicial Ruling: Addressing Emotional Suffering
The judge presiding over the case, known as the “Lord Ordinary,” awarded the First Pursuer £100,000 in compensation for the emotional distress caused by the loss of her daughter’s presence. This sum was determined by considering the distress experienced by the deceased before her passing. Additionally, other family members of the deceased were also granted damages. This case marked a significant milestone, as the First Pursuer’s claim was unprecedented given the circumstances. It is expected that resolving similar cases for lower compensation amounts will become progressively challenging in the future.
Key Takeaways: Implications and Lessons
In essence, these ruling highlights the significance of providing proper support and follow-up care to individuals grappling with mental health issues. It emphasises that neglect in treatment can lead to severe consequences. Furthermore, the decision sets a precedent for similar cases, making it increasingly difficult to settle such claims for reduced compensation amounts.
Did you know ? Gildeas specialises also in handling cases involving Medical Negligence.
If you need to make medical negligence claim, you can get in touch with our Solicitor Alastair Cameron and his team to assist you in resolving your case and getting the settlement you deserve!