A teaching assistant left in a wheelchair for life after being kicked in the back by a pupil is fighting for a payout from a doctor she claims failed to spot her injury.
Mother-of-six Kerry Shaw, 40, was crouched down in the classroom of a Grimsby primary school when she was booted from behind by the five-year-old in 2013, the High Court heard.
The freak accident caused a back injury, leading to nerve damage which has left her seriously disabled, in constant pain and in need of a wheelchair to get around.
Mother-of-six Kerry Shaw, 40, was crouched down in the classroom of a Grimsby primary school when she was booted from behind by the youngster in 2013, causing her to be left in a wheelchair. Mrs Shaw is pictured with her husband Paul outside the High Court on March 1 during a hearing in her fight for damages over her back injury
Mrs Shaw sued out-of-hours GP, Dr Andrew Stead, claiming he was negligent in not referring her for further tests when he saw her two days after the accident.
She was in severe pain when the accident first happened and became so weak afterwards that she felt ‘like Bambi’, the High Court heard.
And now a High Court judge has found that the doctor missed the ‘red flag’ symptoms of her condition, meaning she could be in line for substantial compensation.
‘She did have red flag symptoms at the time of the consultation. Necessarily that means that he missed them,’ said Mrs Justice Yip.
‘The red flags were there to be found, but were unfortunately missed.
‘On this occasion, his standard of care fell below that to be properly expected of a reasonable GP.’
Earlier, the court heard that Mrs Shaw was working at Humberston Church of England Primary School when the accident occurred.
‘She was squatting down on the floor at the school to pick something up when she was kicked in the back by a five-year-old pupil,’ said barrister, Grahame Aldous QC.
‘As a result of the blow, she was in considerable pain for the rest of the day.
‘On the next day, 24 May 2013, she was still in pain, but went to work.
‘She was, however, unable to cope and undertake her duties.’
Dr Andrew Stead outside the High Court after hearing on March 1 over Mrs Shaw’s injuries
After leaving work, Mrs Shaw was given painkillers by a doctor, but went to see Dr Stead at Grimsby’s Princess of Wales Hospital the next day when her condition deteriorated.
However, she was not referred for further investigation and it was two days after that that a third GP realised the gravity of her situation.
She had suffered a prolapsed disc in her spine, which compressed and damaged the nerves at the bottom of her back.
She was transferred to A&E and, after an MRI scan, was sent to the neurosurgical unit at Hull Royal Infirmary for emergency surgery to decompress her nerves.
However, she had already suffered permanent damage.
In her damages claim, Mrs Shaw claimed Dr Stead failed to spot the telltale signs of her condition, known as cauda equina syndrome.
Those include severe or progressive weakness in the lower legs.
From the witness box, she told the court that, when she left her home with husband Paul to go to see Dr Stead, she had struggled to walk at all.
‘I felt like Bambi when I was trying to walk, like I couldn’t properly coordinate my legs,’ she said.
And when she arrived, she had to be wheeled into the room to see the doctor, she claimed.
‘If he had asked me, I would have said I had shooting pains in both legs and pins-and-needles,’ she added.
Denying negligence, Dr Stead said he did not remember seeing Mrs Shaw, but insisted he would have referred her for scans if it was necessary.
The ‘red flag warning signs’ of her condition must not have been there at the time, because he would have referred her if they were, he said.
But the judge ruled in Mrs Shaw’s favour, saying that Dr Stead had breached the duty of care he owed her because ‘immediate referral to hospital was required’.
‘I find that I can accept her account that she felt unsteady on her feet, like Bambi, when she left to see Dr Stead,’ she said.
‘Weighing everything in the balance, I find as a fact that she was experiencing some weakness in her legs at the time of the consultation.’
Dr Stead genuinely believed he would not have missed the symptoms, said the judge.
The incident happened at Humberston Church of England Primary School in Grimsby
But they were there, and he missed them, meaning he had breached the duty he owed to her.
Although Mrs Shaw has won this battle, the court heard that Dr Stead’s lawyers still dispute whether he is actually liable to pay her compensation.
A further hearing will take place to decide how much of her disability, if any, could have been avoided if she had been treated sooner.
No date was set for the next hearing.
Lawyers said the exact value of her claim had not yet been calculated, but the severity of her injuries means that a substantial payout is inevitable should she win on a full liability basis.