Woman pays £1 for MRSA legal claim against hospital

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
Image caption The hospital claims if the case is upheld it could lead to future claims being bought for profit

A woman seeking compensation from a Norfolk hospital after taking over an MRSA sufferer's damages claim could set a legal precedent, a court has heard.

Jenni Simpson, of Kirby Bedon, paid £1 for the claim of Alan Catchpole, who contracted the bug at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in 2005.

The Civil Appeal Court heard she wanted to highlight alleged failures.

Jeremy Morgan QC, for the hospital, said if upheld it would mean others could buy cases for profit.

'Relieve anxieties'

Potentially vast numbers of claims by alleged negligence victims could be bought and pursued through the courts by so-called "claim farmers" and no win, no fee solicitors, he added.

Mrs Simpson's deceased husband John was also diagnosed with MRSA while being treated for cancer at the same hospital and since then she has campaigned to raise the issue, the court heard.

Mr Catchpole, 57, of Old Catton, near Norwich, contracted the bug while undergoing surgery but decided not to pursue the claim himself.

Instead, he "assigned" his "cause of action" to Mrs Simpson, who paid him £1 to take over his role as "claimant" in the case.

Her barrister Simon Redmayne said her motive was not financial, but to see the hospital's infection control procedures "tested in court" and to "heighten the appreciation within the hospital that it needs to deal with MRSA".

He denied there was any principle of law which prevented alleged negligence victims assigning their case to third parties.

'Step into shoes'

The buying-up of cases was "likely to assist, rather than obstruct, public justice" and there would be real merit in a system which relieves injured people of the risks and anxieties involved, he added.

Mr Morgan said it was against "public policy" for Mrs Simpson to be able to step into Mr Catchpole's shoes and pursue his damages claim herself.

He added that it would lead to NHS Trusts defending claims by "impecunious" claimants, backed by legal aid or no win, no fee deals.

After a day of legal argument, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Moore-Bick reserved their decision until a later date.

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