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$3.5m lawsuit against doctors settled for unknown amount

A NOOSAVILLE real estate agent who launched a $3.5 million personal injury suit against the Noosa Junction Medical Centre has settled the case for an unknown figure.

Anthony Jackson, in documents lodged in the Queensland Supreme Court, alleged the centre, its owner Dr Nicholas Hummel and the treating doctor Peter Clem were negligent when they took a conservative approach to his symptoms in March, 2007.

The symptoms developed into herpes encephalitis - a severe viral infection of the central nervous system usually spread through droplets or casual contact - which caused a brain injury.

The settlement was sanctioned in Brisbane Supreme Court last week but the justice sealed the envelope containing confidential details including the final "offer".

Lawyers acting for Mr Jackson had alleged the then Noosaville 56-year-old would not have been left with cognitive and physical deficits, or left with less serious deficits, if not for negligent treatment.

They said the illness went from headaches, lethargy and fevers to Mr Jackson's wife noting cognitive change and diminished memory when he was "usually very sharp".

"In the presence of such rapid deterioration in 24 hours and headache and ongoing fever, urgent diagnosis of the cause of deterioration needed to be undertaken," documents read.

"Dr Clem failed to institute such urgent investigations and therefore his treatment of the claimant fell below the standard of a reasonable competent general practitioner.

"The delay has led to a much worse outcome for (Mr Jackson).

"If treated appropriately on March 6, 2007, he would have been very unlikely to have suffered any significant neurological deficits.

"He would be more likely than not to be able to use language normally or with minor difficulties and therefore return to work as a real estate agent."

Lawyers for the medical centre and its doctors defended the suit, arguing the "exercise of reasonable care" did not demand Dr Clem diagnose or suspect herpes encephalitis or perform a lumbar puncture.

They claimed Dr Clem, doing GP registrar training at the time, had consulted an emergency doctor at the Noosa Hospital and then his superior Dr Hummel, who had agreed with a conservative approach. The medical centre claimed there was no negligence, that Mr Jackson would likely have suffered the deficits "even with earlier treatment".

They also argued Mr Jackson's economic loss claims, even despite the illness, would not have produced an income justifying the claimed damages because there was "a substantial diminishment in the market for real estate" in the Noosa area.

The suit was also against Noosa Privatised Hospital but the court file was silent on whether it too had settled or the case was ongoing. Law firm Minter Ellison, representing the hospital, said its client had asked the firm not to respond to media questions.

Topics:  doctors, noosaville


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