In a judgment handed down last week the Court of Appeal upheld a decision in favour of a family doctor accused of negligence for failing to refer a very young baby to hospital with meningitis. 

In Doy v Gunn [2013] EWCA Civ 493 the complaint was that the GP wrongly diagnosed colic.  If the child had been immediately referred to hospital then antibiotic treatment would have been administered and the serious effects of the meningitis would have been avoided.  As it was, he was left with serious permanent symptoms.

The trial judge found that the Claimant was not showing signs of meningitis at the time the GP saw him. 

In the litigation the Claimant relied on the GP’s defective note of that consultation (10 years earlier).  The Claimant’s mother gave evidence of clear symptoms which should have rung alarm bells.  But the Court of Appeal held that the trial judge was entitled to prefer the account of the GP, even though it was a reconstruction based on an incomplete note and her evidence of her usual practice.  The trial judge had had the opportunity to assess the evidence of all of the witnesses.