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Note on the Supreme Court Judgment in Darnley - Jeremy Pendlebury, 7BR

05/12/18. The Supreme Court, per the judgment of Lord Lloyd-Jones (with whom Lady Hale and Lords, Reed, Kerr and Hodge all agreed), allowed the appeal by Michael Darnley from the dismissal by the Court of Appeal of his appeal from the dismissal of his claim by the trial judge. Mr. Darnley will now recover damages for the devastating brain damage he suffered, consequent upon the progression of a bleed on the brain he suffered in an assault on the afternoon of 17 May 2010.

Mr. Darnley attended the A&E department of the Mayday Hospital, Croydon on the evening of 17 May with his friend Mr. Tubman and informed the receptionist of the assault and head injury and that he was feeling unwell and needed to see someone. He was wrongly told the wait would be four to five hours – he should have been told he would be seen by a triage nurse within 30 minutes. He waited for 19 minutes and then went home before being seen, because he felt so unwell that all he wanted to do was take some painkillers and go to bed. Whilst at home he suffered a deterioration, caused by a progression of the bleed, and despite prompt surgery he suffered permanent serious brain damage.

The Supreme Court held: -
(i) the factual circumstances of the case came within an existing category of a duty of care between a hospital and a patient; and hence the Mayday hospital owed Mr. Darnley a common law duty of care;

(ii) that common law duty included the giving of reasonably accurate information as to waiting times;
(ii) that it was negligent of the receptionist (the employee of the Mayday Hospital) to inform Mr. Darnley that he would have to wait for up to four to five hours before being seen, in the circumstances that the receptionists knew that the correct information was that he could expect to be seen by a triage nurse within 30 minutes;

(iii) on the findings by the trial judge, the Supreme Court held that causation of damage was therefore established, the findings being: -
(a) that had Mr. Darnley been given the correct information, he would have remained within the hospital setting; and
(b) that it...

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