When we consult a doctor on a health matter, we assume that we will receive the highest possible standard of care. However, the sad truth is that this is not always the case. In fact, there are an estimated 15,000 to 19,000 medical malpractice cases filed each year.
Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, provider or other health care professional fails to give appropriate treatment, omits a medically necessary action or furnishes substandard interventions that lead to harm, injury or death to a patient. In an effort to hold practitioners accountable, attorneys bring lawsuits against them in order to compensate people and their families for the harm done. In some cases, the monetary outcomes are extremely substantial. In this article and in a subsequent blog post, we will review just some of the most lucrative malpractice settlements in the United States.
$43 MILLION IN 2018
Billy Pierce, a 61-year-old Texas resident, was admitted to the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler. While there, he was misdiagnosed by Gary Boyd, a doctor who should not have even been on the case due to the fact that he was on probation for performing unnecessary procedures and misdiagnosing patients. For the ensuing month, Pierce remained under a medically-induced coma. It was only then when another physician re-examined him, made the correct diagnoses and removed the bile duct stones that were the cause of the patient’s illness. The lawsuit found the medical center guilty of medical malpractice and gross negligence.
$38.5 MILLION IN 2013
A Florida man named Dale White was fatally harmed as a direct result of the actions of doctors at the Atlantic Surgical Center. They incorrectly and unethically performed a procedure known as “manipulation under anesthesia” from which the patient never awakened. Autopsy showed that it had also caused permanent and catastrophic brain injuries. The jury in this case awarded compensation to Mr. White’s family to pay for the cost of medical expenses as well as for pain and suffering and loss of companionship for the patient’s two elementary school-aged daughters. This outcome was one of the first to count as a strike against any Florida doctor under its new “Three Strikes” Amendment that causes a doctor’s medical license to be revoked after three malpractice incidents that have resulted in a guilty verdict.
$25 MILLION IN 2013
At only age 41, a Virginia man named Christopher Denton underwent a cardiac catheterization test that revealed a 70 percent blockage in one of his main arteries. In spite of this serious test result, Denton’s cardiologist, Riverside Regional Medical Center physician Dr. Edward Chu, went against all logic. Shockingly, he took Denton off of his heart medication and instead recommended that he take pills that were available over the counter. Just a few months later, Denton had a severe heart attack that permanently robbed him of half of his cardiac functioning. Following the attack, this patient needed seven additional heart catheterization procedures and heart bypass surgery and was projected to require a heart transplant in five years. This malpractice verdict compensated Denton, formerly a healthy business owner, for the lasting damage he suffered as well as the shortened life expectancy that is likely to be a direct result.
$12 MILLION IN 2017
Esmeralda Tripp, a 46-year-old Tucson, Arizona woman, took four times the amount of coumadin she had been prescribed for blood clots in her lungs and legs. During the several times Tripp had experienced this issue in the past, doctors generally either withheld her Coumadin for a period of time or treated the clots with fresh frozen plasma with Vitamin K. However, this time was different. A resident physician just eight weeks out of medical school prescribed Profilnine, a dangerous blood-clotting medication that is only recommended for people with serious or life-threatening bleeding or who need emergency surgery. Tripp did not fall into either of these categories. Two hours after the drug was administered, the patient suffered a heart attack and was deprived of oxygen for so long that her brain was permanently damaged. This incorrect administration of medication left the patient unresponsive and requiring constant in-home medical care. The monetary award against Banner University Medical Center will help to pay for the around-the-clock care Ms. Tripp will require for the rest of her life.
$7.275 MILLION IN 2012
Lori Sandretto, an Arizona resident, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus that had resulted from a fall. When she continued to experience significant pain even after the operation, Lori consulted a different orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Charles Calkins, at the Payson Healthcare Management. After he performed a second surgery on the patient, she experienced increased swelling, redness and pain in her knee. A physician assistant diagnosed a skin infection, prescribing an antibiotic to treat it. It was only later that doctors discovered the true cause of Sandretto’s discomfort: a serious, flesh-destroying infection that ultimately forced her to require washout procedures and a knee replacement. Even then, Sandretto was not able to walk properly and has since been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition. The compensation this patient received will help to cover the cost of lost earnings, past and future medical expenses and the disfiguration and trauma the delay in diagnosis caused.
When patients entrust their health into the hands of physicians and medical centers, a tremendous amount is at stake. In those instances when medical professionals blatantly fail in their duty to provide the best possible attention and care, seeking justice is often the only recourse for individuals and families. Medical malpractice lawsuits continue to be the most effective tools that attorneys can wield to obtain the compensation that these patients deserve.