A N1.1bn medical negligence suit brought by the Estate of Nabil Hanga and Mustapha Hanga against De Flight Medics, commonly known as ‘Flying Doctors’ is yet to be resolved after several years in court.
The suit, pending before the High Court of Lagos State has been dragging on for eight years despite indications that the Hanga family had agreed to drop the case against Royal Cross Medical Centre Ltd., hitherto named as one of the defendants.
The family is demanding the said sum for alleged negligence arising from the death of Nabil Hanga, a 26 year old law graduate, aboard an aircraft provided by Flying doctors for medical evacuation from Nigeria to the United Kingdom.
Other defendants in the suit are Olamide Orekunrin, Oyedele Jibayo and Olukunle Orekunrin, who are the co-owners of De Flight Medics AKA Flying Doctors, which operates an air ambulance service for high net worth individuals.
In their suit, the claimants alleged that Dr Ola Orekunrin, a proclaimed medical doctor, helicopter pilot and founder of Flying Doctors, was not a registered medical doctor in Nigeria and was, therefore, not licensed to practice in the country or qualified to be a Medical Director of any facility.
It alleged that though she once graduated in medicine in the United Kingdom (UK), she was at one time suspended by the British Medical Council for gross misconduct, and is currently not registered to practice in the United Kingdom, neither is the company supervised by or regulated by any regulatory body anywhere.
In their joint statements of claim, the family members averred that the late Hanga, who went to the Medical Centre on May 10, 2012 for treatment, died on board the plane provided by De Flight Medics, which was purportedly conveying him to the United Kingdom for further treatment.
It was alleged that after Hanga’s family was persuaded by Flying Doctors to pay an exorbitant sum of $135,000 for an air ambulance, the aircraft belatedly provided by Dr Ola Orekunrin (now Dr Ola Brown) and her team count not in any way be categorized as an air ambulance as it was not equipped with advanced life support equipment and did they have the staff required to safely evacuate the patient.
The plaintiffs averred that the plane was an ordinary passenger jet and did not even have a proper gurney to safely raise the patient into the plane.
That the patient, who had significant brain trauma, was bundled and jostled into the plane with the assistance of airport ground staff.
It was also alleged that the claimants had to rush around to provide basic facilities such as oxygen cylinders and a nurse to assist on board.
The plaintiffs further averred that Dr Shirley Amaechi, who worked at the time at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) clinic and attended to Nabil Hanga, reported that De Flight Medics was to provide a specialist doctor to assess and prepare the patient for evacuation by 5:30am on the 12th of May, but that the doctor did not arrive until around 12.30pm on the said date of evacuation.
According to the plaintiffs, the doctor’s report stated that there was a difference of about 16 hours between when the patient was to have been evacuated from the hospital as agreed and contracted, and when the plane finally took off late that night.
Thus critical time was lost, very significantly compromising the patient’s chances of survival, the plaintiffs alleged.
Furthermore, Mr Hanga, in his statement, said the pilot of the plane informed him that their aircraft was not designed for air ambulance services and was not meant to transport sick individuals.
The family alleged that the company would appear to have been set up by the Orekunrins and Jibayo “to extort money from unsuspecting victims like the claimants who at desperate and precarious situations will usually not have enough time to make investigations before parting with money for their services”.
But De-Flight Medics, in its statement of defence, denied the allegations.
De Flight Medics also denied the claim that its aircraft was not an ambulance, saying the plane was equipped with medical facilities.
Olamide Orekunrin denied that she was not qualified to practice in Nigeria as a medical doctor.
The company and management further denied the extortion allegations.
However, the claimants has last year reported to the court through their counsel, Bruce Ighalo, to have reached a settlement agreement dated June 14, 2019 with the first defendants, Royal Cross Medical Centre Limited.
His position was corroborated by first defendant’s counsel, Lawrence Imolode.
“My lord, I will confirm this. Claimants and the first defendant have settled out of court, the terms have been filed. I humbly urge the court to enter the terms of settlement as the judgment of the court,” he said.
In a bench ruling, Justice Alogba had upheld the prayer and entered the settlement as judgment.
The Chief Judge had also removed Royal Cross’s name as a party in the suit.