Stewarts acted for AM in a clinical negligence claim regarding a delay in diagnosis of a cervical spine abscess, which caused tetraplegia.

Symptoms and diagnosis

AM was a healthy 65-year-old retired IT consultant prior to his injury.

AM began experiencing pain in his neck. He went to his GP on two occasions and was given painkillers. Despite the medication, the pain in his neck continued to worsen.

AM deteriorated. He soon found he was unable to urinate and his legs started to feel weak. His GP visited him at home, diagnosed a urinary tract infection (UTI) and prescribed antibiotics.

AM’s wife became concerned that he was becoming confused and delirious so she called an ambulance which took him to his local NHS hospital. The A&E department referred AM to see a GP based at the out-of-hours GP centre at the hospital. The GP in turn referred AM to the urology team at the hospital, who admitted him.

AM remained in hospital for the next week without a clear diagnosis of what was causing his symptoms. Sadly, he deteriorated further during this time. His legs and arms became so weak that he was eventually unable to get out of bed. An MRI scan of his spine was then performed. This showed a large abscess in AM’s neck, which spanned his cervical spine and compressed his spinal cord.

AM was transferred to a spinal centre and underwent emergency surgery to decompress his spinal cord and to drain the abscess. Unfortunately, the delay in surgery meant that AM was left with tetraplegia impacting his ability to use all four limbs.

AM was left with minimal power in his legs and required a wheelchair to mobilise. AM’s  home was adapted to enable him to sleep downstairs as he was unable to access the upstairs. He also had problems with his bladder and bowels. Thankfully, through a spinal rehabilitation programme, the function in his arms and hands mostly returned to normal. Nevertheless, AM was left with serious injuries which meant that he was seen daily by carers.

Appointment of Stewarts

AM’s case was taken on by Stewarts, with Stewart Young, an associate in the clinical negligence team, having conduct of his case. A claim was brought against the GPs and the NHS Hospital Trust regarding the delay in diagnosing and treating the spinal abscess.

After court proceedings were begun, the Trust eventually admitted liability for AM’s tetraplegia and agreed to make a significant interim payment of damages whilst the case was ongoing. This enabled AM to appoint a case manager to assist with his continued rehabilitation, including organising specialist physiotherapy and purchasing an electric wheelchair and adapted car.

Following a joint settlement meeting, negotiations took place and a settlement of £2.4m was agreed. This award will enable AM to move into a suitably adapted bungalow and ensures that his care and equipment needs will be met for the rest of his life.

AM said of Stewarts:

“I have been very impressed by Stewarts’ general level of professionalism and legal expertise. Stewarts’ specialises in dealing with cases involving spinal cord injuries, so they are extremely knowledgeable about the particular medical and legal issues that arise in these cases. I was very impressed with their specialist knowledge.

“I had a very good and relaxed relationship with Stewart Young. He explains legal issues in a clear and understandable manner and I always felt I could ask him any questions that arose.

“Stewarts is a very professional firm and I would certainly recommend them to anyone who was interested in exploring the possibility of a legal remedy relating to a spinal cord injury.”



You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Clinical Negligence pages.

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Media contact: Lydia Buckingham, Senior Marketing Executive, +44 (0) 20 7822 8134,