Advising with empathy and experience

Failure to diagnose perforated colonic diverticulitis.


The Claimant came to us to investigate a potential clinical negligence claim following the death of her elderly mother in September 2014.

The Claimant’s mother was admitted to hospital following a fall. She was complaining of significant abdominal pain and investigations were commenced. A preliminary diagnosis of biliary sepsis and constipation was made.

Unfortunately, the Claimant’s mothers condition deteriorated rapidly during her hospital stay. She continually complained of severe abdominal pain, and struggled to both eat and mobilise during her admission. Sadly, there was no improvement and she went into organ failure, passing away a short time later.

A post-mortem examination was performed, and it was noted that the Claimant’s mother had developed perforated colonic diverticulitis, which led to sepsis and peritonitis, resulting in her death. This diagnosis had not been picked up by those treating her at the time.

The Claimant is concerned with regard to the treatment her mother received when she was admitted to hospital.  She believes that further investigations should have been carried out, in view of the fact that her mother’s health was clearly deteriorating and she was not responding to the treatment being provided, which suggested the diagnosis of biliary sepsis was incorrect. 

We obtained expert reports from both a General Surgeon and a General Physician. They noted that, whilst the results from the initial investigations did suggest a possible diagnosis of biliary sepsis, there were other potential diagnoses also, which were not investigated.

Given the Claimant’s mother’s ongoing, and worsening, symptoms, the experts stated that further investigations should have been carried out, including a CT scan. Had this been done, the results would have prompted a surgical review, which would have then identified the perforated colonic diverticulitis, a condition common in the elderly.

Following a surgical review, it is likely the Claimant’s mother would then have had the necessary surgery to treat the perforation, and that, on the balance of probabilities, she would not have died when she did.

The allegations were put to the Defendant, who denied all liability. They made several offers to the Claimant that she discontinues the claim.

The Claimant pressed on, bringing proceedings against the Defendant. The Claimant made an offer of settlement to the Defendant, which was not accepted. A few months prior to the trial, and shortly after the Claimant served her medical evidence, the Defendant made an offer of settlement to the Claimant.


The offer was considered too low, and negotiations commenced. A settlement of £17,500 was eventually agreed. This was to reflect the pain and suffering caused to the Claimant’s mother during her last few days, and to compensate the family for the cost of the funeral, loss of services and loss of consortium.