Shane Doyle QC successful in appeal in a claim against a GP by a former patient who had sued for record damages for failing to refer her to a specialist
Ms Mules had consulted her GP, Dr Ferguson, with headaches, neck pain and flushes to the face. Ms Mules was then treated for a probable musculoskeletal disorder, including arranging a CT scan, rather than a potentially more serious neurological condition which would warrant referral to a specialist. The appellant developed the rare cryptococcal meningitis infection, which progressed with catastrophic consequences.
The appellant brought an action in negligence claiming the doctor did not undertake a proper examination or make proper enquiries as to the appellant’s reported symptoms so as to exclude this disease and contended that had the doctor acted competently, the respondent would have referred the appellant for tests and treatment so that the disease was diagnosed and treated before she suffered her grievous injuries. After an eleven day trial at the Supreme Court of Cairns, Henry J found that Dr Ferguson failed to act with reasonable care and skill in not examining Ms Mules thoroughly but concluded that this breach did not cause her injuries indicating that such an examination would not have detected anything to prompt Dr Ferguson, exercising reasonable care, to respond differently. The trial judge also concluded that that Dr Ferguson’s conduct came within the defence provision contained in s 22 Civil liability Act 2003 (Qld). He assessed the appellant’s damages at over $6.7 million but dismissed her claim.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal overturning the trial judge’s findings in material respects. The Court of Appeal found that had the respondent acted in accordance with her duty of care, she ought to have referred the appellant for specialist assessment or to her local hospital for further specialist assessment. There was no evidence sufficient to satisfy the respondent’s onus in respect of s 22 of the Act. It awarded judgment in favour of Ms Mules for over $6.7m plus costs.
Shane Doyle QC was instructed by Shine Lawyers.
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