06 October, 2016
London v Southampton City Council (2016) QBD (May J) 20 May 2016
A widow brought a claim against Southampton City Council after the death of her husband. Mr London suffered from Parkinson's disease, heart problems and dementia. He was waiting to board a minibus at a day care centre run by the Council when he was left briefly unattended whilst his carer quickly adjusted the tail-lift on the bus. During that brief moment, Mr London tripped and fell. He required a full hip replacement and died 10 weeks later following a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Mr London's widow claimed that the Council's negligence led to the fall and ultimately her husband's death.
The local authority maintained that the accident could not have been prevented, arguing all reasonable precautions had been taken, and in any event the DVT could not have been caused by the hip replacement as Mr London had been at risk of a DVT because of his pre-existing medical conditions.
The Court found that the local authority had breached its duty of care. It was aware of the claimant's disability and a risk assessment confirmed that he was at high risk of falling and had to be attended to at all times. In leaving Mr London unattended in that moment, the local authority had failed to take reasonable steps to care for him.
With regard to causation, the claimant had to show that but for the fall Mr London would not have died; in other words, that the DVT had been caused by the fall and not a pre-existing medical condition. Whilst the local authority put forward evidence that a man with advanced Parkinson's was more at risk of getting DVT, the court concluded that, despite the existing medical conditions, the DVT was, on the balance of probabilities, caused by the surgery.
The Council argued that the carer was properly trained and took all reasonable precautions. The Court, however, placed significant reliance on the risk assessment, concluding that the recommendations in the risk assessment should not have been derogated from.