Melissa Day , a registered nurse, gave evidence on behalf of her husband yesterday describing the dramatic moment when they were told by his lawyers that he could face £500,000 costs unless he settled the case with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Health Education England in 2018.
” I understood if Chris were to lose the case, the respondents would as the conference note states claim for “the costs between now and the end of the hearing (£120,000 or more)” This was a significant amount of money which would have caused severe financial stress for our family.
She went on: “A further cost threat was linked to potential credibility findings relating to Chris’s use of covert audio. ln these circumstances, the potential total cost liability could be closer to £500,000 which was more than the value of our house and clearly would have put it at risk.
“At no point were any of the cost threats linked to the truthfulness of Chris’ evidence and I certainly had no concerns about this. I did have concerns about a potential reaction from the judge on the use of covert audio. This is despite what the audio showed about the way the patient safety issues were investigated and the validation it gave Chris’ claims that the Respondents’ made false accounts of his dialogue.”
“In the conference, when Mr Milsom [Chris Day’s lawyer at the time]was asked by Chris what the potential liability would be associated with the cost threats Mr Milsom listed wasted costs in relation to covert recordings with Chris’ potential cost threat liabilities as the conference note confirm”.
” At the time I did not properly understand how wasted costs differed from what I now know are ordinary costs. I had no previous experience of employment tribunals or the different types of cost threats. As they were listed together and reference was made to covert audio, I assumed that Chris would be liable for the costs Mr Milsom had listed.”
No choice but to settle
The couple went home and decided they had no choice but to settle the case even if Chris Day thought he had a chance of winning.
“Chris consulted me and wanted to discuss our options over dinner, I replied that there was no discussion to be had and I was not prepared to risk our family’s security. Chris decided very quickly in the conference that based on the costs threats and my opinion that he was not prepared to accept the risk to our family home and security that proceeding with the case would involve. Chris withdrew the case as a direct result of the costs threats.
“My stated reluctance for him to continue came also as a direct result of the cost threats. There was no doubt in my mind that proceeding with the case was not an option after hearing about the cost consequences despite the serious safety issues at the centre of the case, the unacceptable NHS response to them and the toll that getting this case heard had taken on Chris and our family over the preceding four years.”
She also described the day long negotiations that followed about an agreed statement to be made by the trust and Health Education England that was to follow settlement of the case.
Both HEE and the trust insisted that it had to say that they and their external investigators, Roddis Associates had acted in good faith – despite Roddis ignoring the two deaths at the Intensive Care Unit and that it was adequately staffed – contradicting Dr Day’s case. Both the trust and HEE diverted the issue on to the employment status of their advisers.
Trust insisted it must say it acted in good faith
She said: “Mr Milsom spent a large proportion of the morning walking up and down Croydon precinct outside Costa on the phone to counsel about the agreed statement. It is clear all these discussions about the agreed statement would not have happened without the cost threats as Chris would not have agreed to the wording that everyone acted in good faith or any similar wording.”
“This statement was particularly damaging to Chris because it gave the impression Chris’ protected disclosures were not about the intensive care unit, focusing only on one situation where there was a problem with medical ward cover on one night and claimed they had decided not to pursue Chris for costs.”
Melissa Day was cross-examined by Dan Tatton Brown, for the trust, over the statement and whether Dr Day’s real reason for settling was because he was going to lose. She completely denied this.
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