Davies and Partners support bereaved family through claim against Croyden University Hospital 

Davies and Partners’ specialist Medical Negligence Solicitor Hayley Lewis has supported the bereaved family of Andreas Kassianou through a successful claim against Croyden University Hospital, after their Father contracted legionella pneumonia and died, following a short stay at the hospital in May 2020.

Andreas Kassianou 82, was a former British Airways employee and Home Office Civil Servant, who at the time of his death lived happily and independently in his own home in Croydon.

Mr Kassianou was admitted to Croydon University Hospital on the 18 May 2020, due to a flare up of his Crohn’s disease, which Mr Kassianou had lived with for many years.  On admission to the hospital a chest CT scan was carried out and highlighted that a bronchoscopy was required to dismiss any other conditions. 

Andreas Kassianou Crohn’s disease then stabilised and he was ready to be discharged once the bronchoscopy was completed.  Unfortunately, this procedure was delayed on multiple occasions due to Andreas Kassianou’s platelet count being too low and it finally proceeded on the 24 June 2020. 

The bronchoscopy went well but within hours its completion, Andreas Kassianou became very unwell and he was presenting with symptoms of pneumonia. He was treated with antibiotics whilst the hospital investigated the type and cause. 

A urine sample showed that Andreas Kassianou was positive for legionella pneumophilia and the hospital began relevant treatment. Sadly, Andreas Kassianou died four days after the procedure with the cause of death being registered as legionella pneumonia.

The hospital convened an urgent incident meeting and sampled the water outlets in the hospital.  Andreas Kassianou had been in a side room in the hospital, which had a water basin and a bathroom which had a shower which tests found, was the source of legionella. Testing also found legionella on another ward but no other patients were affected. 

A serious incident investigation found that the hospital staff had not been following the Trust’s Water Safety Management Policy which required staff to identify low usage water outlets twice weekly and flush. The Hospital admitted liability for Andreas Kassianou’s death and his family received a settlement out of court. 

However, Legionnaires disease is a notifiable disease and this meant that Mr Kassianou’s death required a public inquest with a jury.  Currently the costs for such an Inquest have to be met by the claimant, which in this case, were the grieving Kassianou family.

The inquest was held at South London Coroner’s Court before Assistant Coroner Edmund Gritt.  After 4 days the jury concluded that the legionella had developed due to inadequate flushing of the water systems by hospital staff, highlighting this was a preventable death and that the hospital had failed in its Duty of Care.

Andreas Kassianou’s two daughters, Margarita Kassianou Hannan and Nina Bowdery, had attended the inquest and were represented by Melanie Sharp from Cloisters Chambers and Hayley Lewis from Davies and Partners Solicitors. The family received no financial support for the legal costs of the inquest and did not qualify for legal aid.  The Hospital Trust would not provide any financial support or legal representation for the family.

Although satisfied with the result of the Inquiry, Mr Kassianou’s family are keen to raise awareness about their father’s death to avoid any future legionella outbreaks in hospitals.  The family also want to raise awareness of the issue of what they believe, are the unfair legal costs that bereaved families have to pay at public inquests.  An amendment to change this law, was recently voted on in favour in the House of Lords and is now going on for further debate in the House of Commons. 

Commenting, Senior Solicitor Hayley Lewis said, “This was a tragic case and one which raises wider concerns about the presence of legionella in other hospitals, especially during the pandemic when hospitals were short staffed and overstretched.  

Davies and Partners are also keen to support Andreas Kassianou’s family in their aims to raise awareness about how unavoidable Inquests are funded. 

In the circumstances of this case, as legionella is a notifiable infection, it requires an inquest with a jury. In such circumstances where the inquest was of no fault of the family it seems unfair that bereaved families are required to fund their legal representation, when the Hospital Trust admitted they were at fault and had their own, fully funded, legal representation at the inquest. 

We are supporting the current political debate which is trying to ensure a level playing field for claimants in Inquests to allow them to have funded specialist legal representation following a state related death to cover preparation and representation at the inquest and other legal processes. 

This would be funding equivalent to that already enjoyed by the state bodies/public authorities. 

We will be taking a keen interest in supporting the next stages of the House of Commons debate on this subject.”

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