Harris v Johnston [2016] EWHC 3193 (QB) (14 December 2016)

C is a 61-year old lady with a history of back pain… Her claim concerns a revision foraminotomy carried out privately by D, a consultant neurosurgeon, at the C6/7 level of her cervical spine on 3 November 2011. (paragraph 1)

…in the course of the operation an instrument used by D not only penetrated the dura… but came into contact with the spinal cord itself, on the extreme right hand side, causing an injury to it. The issue at the heart of this case is whether the injury was due to clinical negligence, for which D is legally liable, or whether it was a tragic accident for which no-one is to blame. The parties have agreed that if liability is established, damages should be awarded in the gross sum of £725,000. (paragraph 3)

There is a world of difference between a situation in which a number of factors which are indicative of negligence, when viewed collectively, demonstrate negligence on the balance of probabilities, even if taken individually they would be insufficient; and a situation in which it is sought to demonstrate negligence by adumbrating a collection of factors, none of which is even indicative of it. The situation here fell into the latter category… (paragraph 15)

The injury to C’s spinal cord was caused by a wholly unexpected and tragic accident for which D is not legally liable… the claim for damages for clinical negligence must therefore be dismissed. (paragraph 95)