Failure to diagnose spinal fracture from fall and inappropriate surgical procedure resulting in tetraplegia – settled for £500,000

Richard Lodge acted for a 55 year old woman who sustained a serious spinal injury (an unstable Type II odontoid fracture of her C2 vertebrae) after tripping down stairs at home.  Our client was examined by a junior doctor at her local Accident & Emergency Department because she was in such pain and she was assessed by her GP on two further occasions.  Her fracture went undiagnosed.  It was 10 weeks after her injury that her request for physiotherapy prompted an x-ray that diagnosed the fracture. 

By the time the fracture was diagnosed, it could only be stabilised by surgery.  Treatment by an external head brace (a halo brace) was no longer an option.

The surgery was performed by a specialist neurosurgical registrar who attempted to stabilise the fracture by way of a “Sonntag fusion”.  This involved inserting a bone graft between our client’s C1 and C2 vertebrae and holding the graft in place by wiring tied around both sides of the vertebrae.  The surgical procedure was inappropriate for the type of fracture involved and the procedure itself was performed below the expected standard.  As a result of failings during the surgical procedure, our client sustained a severe compression injury to her spinal cord and despite emergency decompression surgery was rendered tetraplegic.

Eventually, after legal proceedings were issued, the Defendant NHS Trust admitted liability for our client’s injuries and the case proceeded on a quantum only basis to establish compensation to fund her future care and therapeutic needs.  Tragically, our client passed away during the litigation. 

The case then became a claim on behalf of our client’s Estate and dependent children, who at the date of their mother’s death were aged 25 and 19 respectively.  It also included a Human Rights Act claim in respect of the delays in making the admission of liability.

After negotiations between the parties the claim settled for the sum of £500,000.

If you, or a member of your family has experienced a similar situation and would like to know more, please visit our spinal injuries page or email

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