The plaintiff had sustained a severe complex crushing injury to his left thumb and was diagnosed with fractures. Following his presentation to the hospital, the plaintiff’s surgery for wound exploration, washout and fixation of his fractures was postponed until the next morning due to the later arrival of other emergencies that hospital staff had assessed as having higher priority. The plaintiff also received antibiotic therapy at the hospital.

After the plaintiff was discharged from hospital, he went on to develop infection and gangrene in his left thumb, and it subsequently became necessary for him to undergo amputation of the distal phalanx of his left thumb.

The plaintiff claimed that unreasonable hospital treatment delays occurred and his injuries were mismanaged. The plaintiff also claimed that he was provided with inadequate prophylactic antibiotic therapy against the risk of infection.

The hospital denied that the plaintiff had been treated negligently in any respect, and also sought the benefit of the peer professional opinion defence in s 5O of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (‘CLA’). Interestingly, the hospital did not seek to establish a defence invoking Pt 5 of the CLA, based on arguments concerning limited or unavailable resources.

Both parties relied upon the evidence of expert witnesses, which is given detailed analysis in the judgment.

Ultimately, the Court preferred the expert evidence relied upon by the plaintiff compared to the defendant, and concluded that the hospital had breached its duty of care in relation to the delay in treatment and the antibiotic regimen. Causation was also found to be proved.

There is interesting discussion of the peer professional opinion defence from [608], but it was found to afford the hospital no exculpatory shelter from liability.

Damages was assessed at $240,930.10.

To read the decision in Gould v South Western Sydney Local Health District [2017] NSWDC 67, click here.