The widow of a businessman who died when a bungling surgeon injected him with an air bubble during an experimental op was today awarded ‘substantial’ damages.
Luigi Belcuore, 43, known to his friends as Louis, took part in a clinical trial testing new techniques for treating knee cartilage problems in October 2009.
But the dad-of-three died of a sudden cardiac arrest on the operating table after Professor James Richardson adapted a piece of equipment without authorisation.
An inquest into his death in March 2011 found that air had been injected into his knee joint by the surgeon causing a massive embolism at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, Shrops.
His family today received a ‘substantial’ settlement – believed to be a six-figure sum – at the High Court in Birmingham.
The figure, which was approved by His Honour Judge Robert Owen QC, followed an earlier full admission of liability by the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic NHS Foundation Trust.
Speaking outside court, Mr Belcuore’s widow Penny, 36, said she was still ‘disappointed’ that Professor Richardson had not been struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC).
She said: “For the past three and a half years I have felt in a state of limbo, trying to find out exactly what happened and why Louis died suddenly during what should have been a routine knee operation.
“Whilst today’s approval hearing brings the civil action to an end and I am grateful that my children’s future is now at least financially secure, it remains an ongoing struggle to carry on without Louis by my side.
“I know that he would want me to stay strong and I do this for the sake of our two daughters and our baby boy.
“However, it’s incredibly hard knowing that both they, and the son he never even got to see, will now grow up without their dad and at every milestone in their lives he will sadly not be there to share in their happiness.
“To be able to fully come to terms with this we need full answers about exactly what went wrong and proof the same errors can never happen again.
“I’d just like to say I’m disappointed the General Medical Council’s investigation is still ongoing and we are really looking forward to having some answers.”
The GMC is still hearing evidence into the treatment of Mr Belcuore.
Victoria Blankstone, a medical law and patients’ right’s expert at the family’s lawyers Irwin Mitchell said the lack of answers has caused further heartache for the family who are unable to move forward with their lives.
She said: “Today is a difficult day for Louis’ family.
“What marks out this particular case is how difficult it has been to get to the truth of what happened.
“And whilst it is a testimony to Penny that she has remained resolutely determined in her search for answers, she is deeply upset that it has taken so long to discover the full facts of what occurred the day her husband died.”
Tragically, just four weeks after Mr Belcuore’s death, his heartbroken widow discovered she was expecting their third child, who she named Louis in his honour.
The respected businessman, who was the Northern European Sales Manager for American computer graphics giant NVIDIA, lived with Penny in Morton Bagot, near Studley, Warks.
As well as Penny and the son he never met Louis, now aged two, Mr Belcuore also had two daughters, Lydia, six, and Sienna, five.
He also left behind his three sisters and his elderly parents – who live in Amalfi, Italy.
Representing the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic NHS Foundation Trust at the settlement hearing yesterday, solicitor Caroline Cross said: “We are pleased that settlement has been agreed with Mrs Belcuore, the widow of the late Mr Luigi Belcuore.
“The Trust deeply regrets the tragic loss of Mr Belcuore’s life in 2009 and offers its sincere apologies to Mrs Belcuore and her family and would like to wish them well for the future.”