Pensioner sues NHS for £7m after drunken scooter accident

Sailor Richard Dee on a sailing boat with a colleague
Richard Dee, left, a keen sailor, is confined to ground floor of his home after the scooter crash - Champion News Service ltd

A 70-year-old sailor is suing the NHS for allegedly failing to treat a back injury when he crashed a scooter after drinking alcohol.

Richard Dee, from Birmingham, broke his neck when the front wheel of his scooter caught on a ledge in a “freak accident” whilst he rode back from a pub with friends four years ago.

The pensioner, who had drunk a “moderate” amount of alcohol, was celebrating the end of a yacht race with Midland Sailing Club at a regatta in Pembrokeshire.

He has now claimed more than £7 million in damages in the High Court after his injuries left him in a wheelchair, confined to the ground floor of his marital home of four decades and needing 24-hour care.

He is suing the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust and two NHS boards who treated him.

Richard Dee in a wheelchair with wrist supports
Richard Dee's lawyers claim paramedics failed to properly assess Mr Dee - Champion News Service Ltd

His lawyers claim that paramedics failed to properly assess him after the accident and spot “evidence strongly suggesting the presence of spinal injury”.

It is alleged that medical staff at Hywel DDA University Health Board failed to assess and triage him appropriately on arrival at the A&E department at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, and that he was not assessed by a doctor for over five hours after admission.

The Swansea Bay University Health Board, which runs the city’s Morriston Hospital, is also accused of “woefully inadequate” advice in permitting him to remove a neck brace.

All three health bodies deny that failures of care caused Mr Dee to sustain serious injury.

Freak accident

Following a pre-trial hearing at the High Court, Judge Amanda Stevens ordered an interim payment of £109,006 to Mr Dee “given the various failures of the defendants which I have identified and held to be causative of the claimant’s deterioration in upper limb function and development of pressure sores”.

Describing the “freak accident”, Judge Stevens said: “For reasons that are unclear, he then decided to ‘have a go’ on one of the adult non-motorised scooters belonging to a friend.

“Apparently, these are a customary means of transport around many regatta sites, and he had not used one for many years.

“He had not progressed very far when the front wheel of the scooter became caught on a small ledge by a door, causing him to fall off and sustain a broken nose on impact.

“Although not diagnosed at the time, it is undisputed that he also suffered a traumatic contusion of the cervical cord at C6 extending down to the disc level. He was unable to get up from the ground and has been unable to walk since.”

In court, Mr Dee’s legal team accepted he would have suffered some damage to his lower limbs from his fall, but that he had been unnecessarily left without “full use of his upper body”.

The £7m compensation package being fought for is designed to cover the future costs of his lifelong care.

A full trial will be held at a later date.

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