Settlement of Medical Negligence Claims: where is the point of no return? Part 2
Following on from my earlier post, because of the uncertainty that remains as to when a settlement becomes binding, if there is urgency, the uncertainty should be removed by express agreement. This is illustrated by a case resolved a month or so ago for a 59 year-old woman tragically suffering from terminal cancer.
Her claim related to a failure to arrange follow-up on a colonoscopy she had undergone in early 2007. Histopathology from the colonoscopy demonstrated pre-cancerous changes and ought to have prompted follow up and further investigation. By the time of my client’s diagnosis with cancer in late 2011, no effective treatment was possibly and she was receiving palliative care.
The case was settled on reasonable terms at a mediation conference in April 2013. The defendant and its insurer deserve considerable credit, given this was arranged on an expedited basis because of our client’s precarious health.
Because of my client’s ill health I was careful enough to stipulate that the settlement of the claim was to take effect immediately at the mediation and not to be subject to completion of settlement documents etc.
Very tragically, our client died on the Friday following the mediation conference. No opportunity existed for her to sign the relevant settlement documents before her death, though we spoke to her + so she knew the settlement that was achieved.
Fortunately (if there can be any fortune in such situation), given the term of the settlement mentioned above, the relevant compensation payment will still be made and will provide considerable benefit to our client’s immediate family.