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NHS Grampian and Highland did not 'grasp opportunity' to save businessman's life after horror road crash, rules Court of Session

By Louise Glen

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Court of Session Edinburgh
Court of Session Edinburgh

Opportunities to save the life of a man who died in a fatal car accident were "not grasped" by NHS Highlands and Grampian, the Court of Session has heard.

Yet, Lady Wise ruled it was a "morally reprehensible" driver who had a greater role in the death of businessman John Widdowson (59) on a Highland road than the doctors who failed to treat his injuries properly.

The Court of Session heard that one medic was referred to the General Medical Council after the man's death at Raigmore Hospital in 2016.

Lady Wise concluded on Thursday that the insurers of the late Daniel Gordon should bear the brunt of a £741,361 pay out to the family of Mr Widdowson.

She ruled that 15 per cent of the claim, £111,204, should be paid by NHS Highland and a further 15 per cent by NHS Grampian, while 70 per cent should be paid by Mr Widdowson's insurers.

The 59-year-old was a passenger in one of two Volkswagen Polos which collided on the B9089 road near Kinloss, Moray on January 1, 2016.

Mr Gordon (24) died at the scene whilst Mr Widdowson and the 80-year-old driver of the VW he was travelling in had to flee the vehicle as it burst into flames.

The Court of Session heard how Mr Gordon’s car crossed onto the opposite side of the road after it negotiated a bend.

Investigators concluded that he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was travelling at speeds of 80 miles per hour

Mr Widdowson, who ran a travel agency in Forres, Moray, died at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness on January 11, 2016.

In the hours following the collision, he had been taken to Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin and he was allowed to go home on January 2 after a doctor concluded that his injuries weren’t serious.

The court heard that the following day, Mr Widdowson was rushed to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

He later died and a post mortem found the cause of death was the “direct consequence of the abdominal trauma sustained in the motor vehicle collision.”

This prompted members of Mr Widdowson’s family to take Daniel Gordon’s insurers, NHS Grampian and NHS Highland to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

NHS Grampian were sued on the basis that it was responsible for Dr Gray’s whilst NHS Highland was responsible for Raigmore.

All three defenders had admitted liability at an earlier stage in proceedings.

On Thursday, Lady Wise ruled on how much each each of them should contribute to the compensation payment.

In a written judgment issued on Thursday, Lady Wise explained her reasoning.

She wrote: “On the undisputed facts of this case, then, three separate defenders were at fault, but the first defenders’ insured acted in a way that was by far the most culpable and which I categorise as extremely reckless.

“It was his deliberate act in taking a bend in the road at a speed of 80 miles per hour or so with the inevitable consequence of losing control of his vehicle that stands out as being morally reprehensible.

“An approach that acknowledges the significant difference between the driver’s positive act on the one hand and the omissions, well intended, of the medical professionals in the context of a complex decision making process on the other, is in my view the correct one.

“I conclude that on the facts of this case, the first defenders must bear by far the greatest share of the blame for what occurred.”

Mr Widdowson was a popular member of the community in Forres and was involved in organising a piping festival in the town.

He was married to Fiona, was a dad and ran the Beaver Travel Firm in the town.

Following the announcement of his death, local MSP Richard Lochhead described him las a “thoroughly decent man”.

Moray MP Angus Robertson also said: “I was shocked to hear the very sad news of the untimely death of Ian Widdowson.

“He has been a prominent business and community figure in both Forres and Elgin for many years, and I have always had a great respect for him.”

The judgment tells of how, following the crash, Mr Widdowson was taken to Dr Gray’s Hospital.

Medical experts who scrutinised Mr Widdowson’s treatment whilst a patient there concluded that doctors didn’t follow best practice.

The judgment tells of how one medic who treated Mr Widdowson was referred to the General Medical Council.

Following Mr Widdowson being allowed to go home, the judgment tells of how NHS 24 received a call from his home the following day saying he was vomiting, had a fever and was very drowsy.

A 999 call was made and an ambulance took Mr Widdowson to Raigmore Hospital.

Doctors there performed a CT scan on Mr Widdowson and found a “number of abnormalities” in his body including rib fractures.

However, the court heard that staff at Raigmore also did not do enough to save Mr Widdowson’s life.

Lady Wise wrote: “I accept the submission made on behalf of the third defenders that the medical negligence chapter of events can be taken together in the sense that it occurred simply by chance that the period of inaction involved two hospitals.

“In short, the life threatening injuries having been caused by the first defenders’ insured, there were opportunities to remedy that and save Mr Widdowson’s life that were not grasped.

“It is agreed that had surgery been performed by January 4 on balance Mr Widdowson would have survived.”

Lady Wise divided the compensation award between members of Mr Widdowson’s family

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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