Super-fit yachtsman, 70, paralysed for life sues NHS for £7million

  • Richard Dee was celebrating the end of a regatta at the time of the accident 

A super-fit pensioner who ended up paralysed for life after a disastrous scooter accident during a night out is suing the NHS for £7million in compensation amid claims medics botched his treatment.

Yachtsman Richard Dee, now 70, broke his neck when the front wheel of the scooter snagged on a small ledge as he was riding back from a pub with a group of friends four years ago.

Mr Dee, of Birmingham, who had retired just two months earlier, is now suing the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust and two NHS boards whose medics treated him after the fall.

He seeks more than £7million in damages for injuries which have left him wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care, claiming his condition was drastically worsened by negligent treatment he received post accident.

His lawyers say paramedics failed to properly assess him after the accident and spot ‘evidence strongly suggesting the presence of spinal injury’, and that poor advice led to deterioration of his condition which means he lost control of his upper body.

Yachtsman Richard Dee, now 70, broke his neck when the front wheel of the scooter snagged on a small ledge as he rode it four years ago

The keen sailor ended up paralysed after the accident following a regatta

Medics at the Hywel DDA University Health Board are accused of failing to assess and triage him appropriately on arrival at the A&E department at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, where he was not assessed by a doctor for over five hours after admission.

The Swansea Bay University Health Board, which runs the city’s Morriston Hospital, is accused of ‘woefully inadequate’ advice in permitting him to remove a neck brace, when it was likely that would cause his condition to deteriorate.

A judge presiding over a pre-trial hearing at the High Court heard that Mr Dee crashed on the scooter while at a sailing regatta with his own Midland Sailing Club.

At the time of his accident, the keen sailor was celebrating the end of the yacht race at a regatta in Pembrokeshire, and had walked to a nearby pub with friends for a round of drinks, London’s High Court heard. 

The ‘avid sailor’ was injured following the regatta dinner and speeches when he strolled to a local pub, where he consumed a ‘moderate’ amount of alcohol with his pals.

Commenting on the ‘freak accident,’ the judge, Master Amanda Stevens, explained: ‘For reasons that are unclear, he then decided to “have a go” on one of the adult non-motorised scooters belonging to a friend.

‘Apparently, these are a customary means of transport around many regatta sites, and he had not used one for many years.

‘He had not progressed very far when the front wheel of the scooter became caught on a small ledge by a door, causing him to fall off and sustain a broken nose on impact.

‘Although not diagnosed at the time, it is undisputed that he also suffered a traumatic contusion of the cervical cord at C6 extending down to the disc level.

‘He was unable to get up from the ground and has been unable to walk since. He is now a tetraplegic, wheelchair dependent and requires 24-hour professional care.’

A judge has ordered an interim payment of more than £100,000 to Mr Dee to cover immediate costs after identifying 'failures' of the defendants

In court, Mr Dee’s legal team accepted he would have suffered some damage to his lower limbs due to his fall, regardless of any negligent medical treatment.

But they claimed botched treatment made matters much worse than they should have been, robbing him of the ‘full use of his upper body’ and leaving him without control of his bladder, while at times he even struggles to use a fork.

The £7million compensation package being sought is designed to cover the future costs of his lifelong care, including adapting his home.

He is currently confined to the ground floor of his marital home of 40 years, but cannot access other rooms in the house due to the door frames being too narrow for his wheelchair.

In a fundraiser set up in the months following the accident, Mr Dee’s family paid tribute to his ‘determination, strength and bravery’ on his long road to recovery, adding he is ‘naturally active’ and has a ‘competitive nature’.

‘He is so much more than a body in a bed’, they continued. 

All three defendants deny that failures of care caused Mr Dee to sustain serious injury.

The case came before Master Stevens as Mr Dee’s lawyers applied for an ‘interim’ compensation payout to cover his pressing needs until his claim reaches a full trial.

The court heard he is in ‘dire need’ of cash to improve his ‘wholly unsatisfactory living conditions’.

Following a day-long hearing, Master Stevens said a trial judge would be likely to find the three health bodies had breached their duty to Mr Dee in relation to the ‘mismanagement’ of blood pressure, leading to the extension of injury to his upper limbs, and for the development of pressure sores.

‘Given the various failures of the defendants which I have identified and held to be causative of the claimant’s deterioration in upper limb function and development of pressure sores, I believe it is appropriate I order an interim payment,’ she said.

She ordered an interim payment of £109,006 to Mr Dee, pending the full hearing of his claim.


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