Davies v Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust [2021] EWHC 169 (QB) (29 January 2021)

This claim arises from the tragic death of C from bacterial meningitis. On the morning of 25 February 2015 C was taken by ambulance from her home to D hospital. On the evening of 27 February she was declared dead. [1]

Administration of intravenous (IV) antibiotics to C began at 13.20 on the day of hospital admission, 25 February 2015. By the time that the matter came to trial it had been admitted and agreed that D was negligent by failing to begin administering antibiotics by 10.40 that day. In the event of liability being established quantum had also been agreed. In view of the interests of the children, I was asked to approve the agreements (as to the fact and time of negligence, and as to quantum), which I did at the start of the trial. The disputed issue that was tried before me is causation. [2]

Causation is put by C in two alternative ways, being in summary (a) that, had intravenous antibiotics been administered by 10.40 on the day of admission, it is likely, on the balance of probabilities, that Mrs Davies would have survived; or (b) that the failure to do so made a material contribution to her death. Both are disputed. D specifically contends that the doctrine of material contribution is not, in law, applicable in this case. [3]

In the present case C died from a disease which, whilst it involved a process that took its course over a period of time, led to the indivisible outcome of death. The sole task of the Court has been to determine on the balance of probabilities whether, in a but for sense, the failure to start IV antibiotics by 10.40 on the day of admission caused her death or not. [210]

judgment for C [212]