The patient suffered from epilepsy due to an antenatal stroke. At age 21, she underwent telemetry testing to determine her eligibility for surgical intervention. The testing required her brain activity to be monitored during a seizure. Whilst under Hospital care and supervision, a seizure was induced through medication withdrawal and sleep deprivation. 

At 4:03am on 5 January 2010, the patient commenced a seizure episode which lasted for two hours and 44 minutes. The episode involved simple and complex partial seizures. The Hospital admitted breach in that it failed to treat the patient’s seizure event in a timely manner, failed to instruct staff as to the appropriate care and treatment, and failure to terminate her seizure within an appropriate time after it begun.

The patient claimed that the Hospital’s failure caused a significant and permanent deteriorative change in her pre-existing condition, namely changes in the ‘nature, frequency and character’ of her seizure activity.

The Court accepted that there was a detrimental difference in the patient’s condition due to the negligence of the Hospital, even taking account of the fact that her pre-existing epilepsy was a progressive disease. She was assessed as having suffered an injury equating to 41% of the most serious case. Given the uncertainty of the patient’s employment prospects prior to the exacerbation injury, buffer amounts were considered most appropriate when calculating economic loss. A discount of 75% on the costs of future care, still amounting to $1.1M, was considered appropriate due to the deteriorating nature of the patient’s condition even if the negligence had not occurred.

She was awarded a total of $1,672,790.75 in damages.

To read the full decision in Pierce v Metro North Hospital and Health Service [2016] NSWSC 1559, click here.