A paramedic’s error of judgement and poor handling was judged to have added to the damage caused to a 60 year old man who had fallen down the stairs and broken his neck.
The court heard that the claimant, who had been drinking alcohol at the time, lost his footing and ended up sprawled out at the foot of the stairs with the glass tumbler still in his hand. When his wife returned home, she underestimated the seriousness of the injury. Her husband - who had a history of alcohol problems - was conscious and insisting that he would, in a little while, be able to get up without any help.
More than two hours passed before the wife, an alcohol specialist nurse, began to suspect that her husband's condition was potentially more serious than she first assumed. Upon further examination, she mistakenly thought he might have suffered a stroke and then rang for an ambulance.
Lost complete movement and feeling in all his limbs
The paramedic also made the same error in thinking a stroke had caused the accident. Instead of taking steps to immobilise the neck and prevent further damage the claimant was carried into the lounge, placed into an upright, sitting position before being taken to the ambulance in a carry chair. It was only after arriving at the hospital that a fractured neck was correctly diagnosed.
The judge said that the issue under consideration was whether or not the paramedic is, at least in part, responsible for the claimant’s severe disability. It was concluded that the mistaken assessment and incorrect actions of the paramedic had caused additional damage to the claimant’s spinal cord.
As a result, the claimant was now a tetraplegic, with a complete loss of movement and feeling in both arms and legs, which would not have necessarily been the case if some of the nerves had returned to full function to the benefit of the claimant.