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NEWS RELEASE

KEEBLE HAWSON WINS 40,000 SETTLEMENT

24th June 2002

Yorkshire based law firm, Keeble Hawson is delighted to announce the success of Partner Caroline Moore in securing a 40,000 settlement for former Valium addict Raymond Nimmo.

The strength of the case, the severity of the negligence and the perseverance of the legal team means that Mr Nimmo's case is the first of its kind to be reported to conclude in favour of the claimant and Keeble Hawson's Caroline Moore is extremely pleased with the outcome.

Partner and acting Solicitor in the case, Caroline Moore said:

"This case settled within 3 years which in itself is an achievement in matters of this kind. It is the first reported case successful against a prescriber negotiated out of court and as such represents real progress for those fighting for increased awareness of Benzodiazepine drugs including Valium. There is still a place for Benzodiazepines but people prescribed the drug should think carefully about the dosage they are on and the length of time they have been using it. Those with concerns should review their use with their GP and if still worried should speak to a specialist clinical negligence solicitor, regulated by AVMA and Law Society Panels."

Notes for Editors

  • Keeble Hawson is a premier Yorkshire law firm with over 170 staff and 25 partners working in 3 offices across Yorkshire.

  • The Keeble Hawson Clinical Negligence team is recognised as a leading team by the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.

  • The Keeble Hawson Clinical Negligence team is recognised by the Law Society as a specialist team and regulated by the Law Society and AVMA.

BACKGROUND

Mr Raymond Daniel Nimmo was 32 years old in 1984 when he consulted his GPs Drs Shambhulingappa and Ugargol (husband and wife), with a dental infection. He was prescribed an antibiotic and suffered an allergic reaction to it experiencing severe abdominal pains. He was told, however, that this pain was caused by a muscle spasm and was prescribed a powerful benzodiazepine tranquilliser called Xanax. The pain persisted and he was prescribed a variety of different tranquillisers and by early 1985 was taking high doses of diazepam (Valium). This drug was prescribed continuously until 1998 when Mr Nimmo changed doctors.

Mr Nimmo was told he needed the drug to alleviate the abdominal pain and he attended the surgery at least every 3 months to collect repeat prescriptions. In fact the drug caused many intense side-effects including suicidal depression, agoraphobia, insomnia and panic attacks as well as physical effects such as itching, sweating, dyspepsia and flu-like symptoms. Mr Nimmo was prescribed a wide variety of drugs including antidepressants to treat the side-effects which the doctors failed to recognise.

Mr Nimmo had jointly set up a scaffolding company but could not cope with this owing to the Valium, gave it up in 1986 and has not worked since despite a previous good employment record. The company continues to be run successfully to date by his fellow director.

He and his wife have one son and had planned to have more children but gave up these plans when because Mr Nimmo was diagnosed as "mentally ill" and he believed he was not fit to father more children.

It was in 1998 that Mr Nimmo was advised by a new GP, Dr Rizk, that diazepam was causing rather than treating his depression. Mr Nimmo came off the drug and his abdominal pain, depression, anxiety and various other symptoms resolved completely. Although it is now more than three and a half years since he withdrew from diazepam he continues to suffer distressing protracted physical withdrawal symptoms such as tinnitus, burning scalp sensations, muscular pains and numbness as well as continued memory and concentration problems.

Last December Mr Nimmo had an MRI scan which revealed two areas of brain damage. Although the specialist could not say what caused these he did conclude that the symptoms he is currently suffering from are consistent with the Protracted Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.

For the last few years Mr Nimmo has been building a web site and runs a support forum for fellow sufferers across the world. His web site has become very popular and can be accessed at: www.benzo.org.uk.

PROGRESS OF LITIGATION

In 1999 Mr Nimmo started to pursue a claim of clinical negligence against his former GPs. Dr Shambhu vigorously denied the claim and passed the matter onto his indemnity insurers, the Medical Protection Society. After detailed correspondence the MPS admitted the GPs had been negligent in their prescribing of the diazepam which was over the levels recommended by the British National Formulary and that there were no reasonable or consistent attempts to reduce the drug but required Mr Nimmo to prove the extent of injury suffered as a result of the negligent prescribing.

The MPS initially indicated there would be no pay out because Mr Nimmo was out of time for bringing an action. However, after service of High Court proceedings the MPS was persuaded that Mr Nimmo might persuade a court to award damages despite the potential time issue and a reduced payout was negotiated in the sum of 40,000 plus legal costs.

OTHER CLAIMANTS

Many have been put off pursuing prescribers of benzodiazepine drugs for various reasons. They may think they are out of time as the usual rule being that proceedings should be taken within 3 years of the negligent event. However, the courts do have discretion to allow awards in some strong cases of negligence, despite time problems and the circumstances of each case has to be looked at individually.

Also, there was much publicity when the manufacturers, largely of Ativan and Valium, were pursued in a group action in the late 1980s/early 1990s. The group action failed and consequently the group pursued the prescribers ie GPs and health authorities employing psychiatrists. The Court of Appeal disallowed the group action but this was in part owing to funding difficulties as well as difficulties in individual cases in proving the injury was caused by the drugs themselves. Three of the claims against prescribers were in fact allowed to proceed.

It is thought that there may be various cases against prescribers that have settled out of court but have not been reported to the public owing to the Defendants imposing non-publicity clauses as a term of any settlement. Generally legal advisers should try to protect their client and the public, as far as possible, from non-publicity clauses.

TEAM

Solicitor: (latest contact details) Miss Caroline Moore LLB, Medical Solicitors, Unit 1A South West Centre, Troutbeck Road, Sheffield S7 2QA. In the UK and interested in taking legal action against your prescriber? Visit website.

Barrister: Miss Rachel Vickers LLB (Hons), 199 The Strand Chambers, 199 The Strand, London, WC2R IDR. Telephone: 0207-379-9779.

Causation: Professor Malcolm Lader OBE, DSc, PhD, MD, FRC Psych, FMedSci, Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AF. Telephone: 0207 848 0372.

GP Expert: Dr Ian Isaac MBBS, MRCGP, DRCOG, Fircroft, 26A Watford Road, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, WD4 8DY. Telephone: 01923 266176.


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