DB v Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust [26.08.11]
13 year old male Claimant awarded £30,000 for corrective surgery making appearance of his ears worse; which led to bullying about his ears.
It is usually accepted that less significant facial disfigurement in a male attracts only limited damages. This case however highlights the potential impact upon an award psychological elements of such injury can create, and reminds us of the cruelty of the playground.
The Claimant underwent pinnaplasty surgery in May 2007 at a hospital of the Defendant Trust. When the bandages were removed one week later, the left ear was folded over more than the right ear, and the conchal bowl of the left ear remained fairly prominent. The antihelical fold was excessively set back so that the rim of the left ear could not be seen when viewed from the front. Although better than the left ear, the Claimant’s right ear also showed an irregularity to the top of the helical rim.
The Claimant underwent a revision procedure in February 2008 but was left with an irregular protrusion in the conchal hollow of his left ear - the overall shape of the ear did not change greatly. The right ear abnormality was not corrected.
The Claimant alleged the original procedure was negligent in making the protuberance of the ears worse rather than better and introduced irregularities and abnormalities of the appearance of the ears that were not there before. The Defendant denied liability on the ground that any deficiencies in the operative result were due to the inherent complications of the type of procedure.
Admission of liability
When proceedings were issued in June 1010 the Defendant admitted breach of duty. An interim payment of £10,000 was made and the Claimant underwent a further revision procedure (in the private sector) in December 2010. The procedure produced some improvement - both ears had a better shape and were less protruding. Initially the folding of the left ear was corrected but was not maintained.
As well as the appearance of the left ear presenting a problem to the Claimant, he also claimed that he experienced teasing about the shape of that ear, which had a negative effect upon his confidence.