Damages against charity following death rejected by court

Drug counselling

Judge finds that charity and care worker did not have the same responsibility as a hospital 

9th July 2019 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A claim for damages by the family of a man who died while in residential care of a charity has been rejected by a court.

Francis Hughes, 34, had a history of alcoholism and homelessness when he attended Turning Point Scotland’s Link Up service centre in Glasgow. After an initial assessment, he was admitted to the service but died shortly afterwards in one of the charity’s residential units.

The court dismissed the family’s claim made under the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011 finding that there had been no breach of any duty of care by the defender.

A clinical institute withdrawal assessment (CIWA) carried out on Hughes by a project worker revealed he was in need of alcohol detoxification treatment, which would require medication such as diazepam.

Hughes was admitted to the centre’s crisis residential unit but despite repeated calls to the duty voluntary medical officer the project worker was not able to obtain a prescription for the relevant detoxifying medication until 5:30pm.

Although Hughes was checked upon every hour, he was found dead later in the evening.

The family argued that the project worker had individually breached his duty of care as he had the results of the test but failed to obtain the required medication in a timely fashion.

Furthermore, the family argued that if the project worker or Link Up successfully referred the deceased to hospital, he would not have died.

However the court found that no duty of care had been breached by the charity or the project worker individually as they had not assumed responsibility for Hughes’ welfare.

Lord Clark stated that to place this assumption of responsibility on the defender would be to hold them to the same standard as a hospital.

“The defender simply did not have medical and nursing staff of various ranks and roles, and medication, to be taken as having held itself out to provide a safe and comfortable detox,” he stated.

“As such it would not be right to hold the defender to standards and expectations for which it was not resourced.”

Pamela Stevenson, a partner at Weightmans law firm, said: “This case demonstrates that bodies which are created with the aim of providing important public services, such as that of Turning Point, will not be unduly punished for outcomes beyond their control.

“Turning Point’s Link Up centres are charity-led initiatives with the aim of providing assistance to people experiencing homelessness and associated crises.

“The finding of the court in this case demonstrates a judicial willingness to hold services such as Turning Point responsible only within the context of their stated aims.”