Soldier who was left in crippling pain after pointless operation to address his snoring is awarded £1.5m in damages

Operation was supposed to reduce snoring

Operation was supposed to reduce snoring - Credit: Archant

Today a soldier who could have risen through the ranks but was forced to quit his army career when an operation to combat his loud snoring had catastrophic medical consequences has been awarded £1.5 million damages at the High Court.

Richard Downing was a warrant officer in the Army Air Corps with very good prospects of being commissioned when he had the procedure in November 2006, said Sir David Eady in London.

It made no difference to his snoring but was followed by an infection which led to reactive arthritis and a disabling pain disorder.

Mr Downing, now 43, was discharged on medical grounds in August 2010 and it is unlikely he will ever work again.

For long periods, said the judge, he was effectively a “prisoner” in his home, and has been unable to participate in everyday household and family activities, while his social life was severely restricted.

Mr Downing, from Suffolk, brought an action against Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which agreed to compensate him on the basis of 63% liability, without any admissions being made.

The judge said that Mr Downing, who is partially wheelchair dependent, was a credible and reliable witness who was very keen to get better, so far as possible, and willing to co-operate fully with any medical advice given.

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His sense of injustice stemmed from the fact that he was advised to undergo a pointless operation - which led to his suffering constant pain, the loss of an enjoyable and rewarding career and the fundamental upheaval of his happy family life.

“Money is never going to compensate adequately for that. Nothing is going to remove that sense of injustice.”

The judge said that it was unlikely that there would be any significant long term improvement, still less a cure, so far as Mr Downing’s mobility, pain and tendency towards depression was concerned, and there was no prospect of him resuming any paid employment in the foreseeable future.

“The contrast with his previous personality, physical capacity and positive lifestyle could hardly be greater. He and his wife have stoically faced a fundamental reversal of fortunes which would have tested many relationships to destruction, but thanks mainly to Mrs Downing’s strength of character the family structure remains largely intact.”

He added that, If Mr Downing had not become disabled, it was likely that he would have retired at the age of 50 with the rank of captain and then obtained a responsible post in the private sector where he would have stayed until he was 68.

The compensation assessed by the judge includes a sum of £93,000 for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, £435,000 for future accommodation and £343,650 for future care.

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