Damages approved against an NHS Trust for causing mother's death

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A court has recently approved the settlement of a civil claim against the Tees Esk and Wear Valleys Hospitals NHS Trust for its role in the death of Cheryl Durnall. The claim covers the cost of bringing up her child after her death.

Cheryl Durnall was a much loved mother, sister and daughter. In April 2011 The Tees Esk and Wear Valleys Hospitals NHS Trust admitted liability for causing her death.

The Trust's mental health team took no action following a report that Mrs Durnall had taken an overdose of medication on 13 February 2008 and, as a result, an opportunity was missed to treat that overdose and prevent her death.

Mrs Durnall had one surviving daughter, identified only as Y, who is disabled. She relied on her mother for the majority of her care. Mrs Durnall also had a disabled brother (identified as X) who she provided with care and support. Her death meant that other family members took over the care when, but for Mrs Durnall's death, they would not have.

Y now lives with her father. The damages awarded reflect that Y would have remained reliant on her mother's care until her mother was too elderly to look after her, rather than to T's 21st birthday, as is the usual method of assessing the loss of a mother's care. All funds recovered for Y have been placed under the control of the Court of Protection and will be used for her care needs over the whole of her life, as will any damages awarded to X.

Caron Heyes, a clinical negligence law specialist with the London office of BL Claims Solicitors has acted for the family of Mrs Durnall alongside Mr John Whitting QC and Mr Timothy Meakin of counsel.

Caron said: “The death of Cheryl Durnall was a terrible tragedy, and her parents and family will never be able to fully come to terms with their loss. In particular her daughter and brother have lost their mainstay and support, which can never be replaced with any sum of money awarded."

The family were represented at the approval hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice by Mr John Whitting QC of 1 Crown Office Row chambers. They ask that any enquires are directed to their lawyers and not directly to them.

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