Howells v Cwm Taf University Local Health Board

Andrew McLaughlin

27 August 2019

Andrew McLaughlin has successfully defended a clinical negligence claim against a professor of colorectal surgery who was accused of dividing a ureter of a patient during laparoscopic surgery to remove cancer from his bowel which was found in the rectum. Andrew was instructed by Cwm Taf University Local Health Board, and the case was heard over 3 days from 20th to 22nd August 2019 in Cardiff Civil Justice Centre by the Designated Civil Judge for Wales HHJ Harrison.

The claimant, who was represented by Henry Vanderpump of St Johns Buildings in Manchester, alleged the professor was guilty of substandard surgical technique, he had applied excessive heat when using a harmonic scalpel, and the procedure had become too close to the ureter resulting in it being transected. A DVD of the type of operation was played during the trial.

Andrew cross-examined the claimant’s expert, Mr Zeiderman, a colorectal surgeon, who had claimed in his report that the injury would not have occurred without negligence. As a result of this cross-examination the expert was forced to make a number of concessions. Andrew argued successfully that the operation was known to carry the risk of complications, such as the one that occurred, which was upheld by the judge.

The judge found the surgery was difficult and complex and it was impossible to say the damage to the ureter had occurred because the professor had not exercised reasonable care in the execution of it. The claim was dismissed.