Simeon Maskrey QC and Jeremy Pendlebury (instructed by Deborah Blythe of Russell-Cooke) represented the Appellant Michael Darnley on Thursday 7th June in his appeal to the Supreme Court from the dismissal of his claim against Croydon Health Services by the Court of Appeal last year.
Mr. Darnley had attended Mayday A&E department having been struck on the head in an assault, and asked to be seen urgently. He was incorrectly told by the A&E receptionist that he would have to wait for up to 4 to 5 hours. In fact, as the receptionist knew, he should have been told that (under the hospital’s head injury protocol) he would be triaged by a nurse within 30 minutes. He waited for 19 minutes and then left to go home to bed, where he collapsed due to the effects of an extra-dural haematoma caused in the assault.
The trial judge found it was foreseeable that patients who are told there would be a 4 to 5 hour wait might leave; and that it was also foreseeable that if they did so they might suffer injury. The trial judge further found that, had the Appellant been told that he would be triaged by a nurse within 30 minutes, he would have remained; and that his decision to leave was contributed to by the incorrect information.
Had the Appellant remained there was no issue that his collapse would have been at the hospital and he would have been treated sooner, avoiding permanent brain injury.
However the trial judge held there was no duty of care upon receptionists with respect to information about waiting times; and that it would not be fair just or reasonable to impose such a duty; and further that in leaving, the Appellant took responsibility for that decision.
The majority of the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge in these respects.
Simeon and Jeremy argued in the Supreme Court: –
The case has significant implications for A&E departments and patients attending A&E. The Supreme Court’s judgement is expected later this year.