If life teaches us anything, it is that our bodies are vulnerable to illness and injury. Furthermore, everyone, some of us during our youth and others at a ripe old age, will eventually die. We obtain care from doctors and other medical professionals not to permanently prevent death or injury but to postpone them or minimize their effects. Although doctors can only do so much to stave off the inevitable, there are grave instances when they grievously fail in their commitment to their patients.
In legal terms, this is known as medical malpractice. It occurs when a doctor or other health professional does not provide a patient with appropriate medical treatment, leaves out the performance of a necessary intervention or gives medications or treatments that lead to harm, injury or death. Medical malpractice lawsuits brought by specialist attorneys are the most effective way for individuals and their families to receive the monetary awards that pay for medical costs, lost earnings and the significant pain and suffering that has been suffered.
In a previous blog article, we highlighted five of the largest medical malpractice settlements ever awarded. However, those are just a tip of the iceberg. Read on to see how law firms are continuing to hold the health care industry accountable.
$216.7 MILLION IN 2006
Professional basketball player and New York resident Allan Navarro knew that he had a family history of stroke. He communicated this information to his doctor when he was experiencing symptoms that worried him. Nevertheless, he was diagnosed with a sinus infection and sent home with a prescription for painkillers. The next day, he required emergency surgery for brain swelling, remaining in a coma for the next three months. There were permanent consequences of this misdiagnosis: brain damage, paralysis, cognitive loss and swallowing difficulties. It was eventually learned that the person who conducted Navarro’s initial examination was an unlicensed physician assistant. In one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in U.S. history, the jury awarded $116.7 million in compensatory damages and another $100.1 million in punitive damages.
$172 MILLION IN 2014
In 1998, 12-year-old Tiffany Applewhite went into anaphylactic shock after a home nurse treated an eye infection she was experiencing with a steroid injection. When her mother discovered that her heart had stopped, she called 911. When the New York City Fire Department arrived, they did not have the equipment necessary to treat her condition. Although her mother wanted to rush Tiffany to the nearest hospital right away, the paramedics made other recommendations. The advanced life support ambulance they called took an additional 20 minutes to get there. Today, Applewhite cannot speak, needs to use a feeding tube and requires a wheelchair.
$135 MILLION IN 2018
Ten-year-old Michigan resident Faith DeGrand was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Detroit Medical Center for scoliosis surgery to keep her curvature of the spine from getting worse. The procedure the doctor performed involved installing rods and screws into her spine to straighten it. Instead, the intervention compressed her spinal cord and caused numbness in her arms and legs. By the time the surgeon removed the apparatus, it was too late to reverse the consequences. The malpractice suit that was filed helps to hold the institution accountable for the lifelong effects that Ms. DeGrand will experience.
$6.3 MILLION IN 2016
At age 39, high school wrestling coach Mark Brown probably never expected that the nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and neck pain he experienced while practicing with his team was anything serious. Nevertheless, he went to a local hospital to make sure. He was then transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical and was diagnosed with a relatively common and unconcerning condition known as benign positional vertigo. Immediately after discharge, however, Brown suffered a stroke that left him with vision challenges, severe brain damage and difficulty walking and speaking. For the rest of his life, he will require round-the-clock care. Attorneys sued the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center for failing to diagnose artery dissection, a tear that forms along the inside wall of an artery that can lead to stroke. Additionally, the suit accused the hospital of failing to review the reports written by the hospital where Brown first went, not completing a CT scan with contrast that could have revealed the dissection and not including a vertebral artery dissection as part of the diagnosis. The compensation Brown received will help to pay for the ongoing care this young man will need for the rest of his life while simultaneously holding the medical institution financially accountable for their misconduct.
$6 MILLION IN 2012
An Arizona resident named Jeffrey Hudson developed a tension hemothorax in his left lung that stemmed from bleeding in his left internal mammary artery. Although he received quadruple bypass surgery at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, Hudson died as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest just six days later. Hudson’s two teenaged daughters claimed in their medical malpractice lawsuit that the surgeons and their internist at Banner Thunderbird should have recognized that their father’s condition was deteriorating and furthermore that the doctors had been slow to diagnose and treat his condition in the first place.
After their father’s death, the two young plaintiffs were placed in state custody. At the group living facility where they were assigned, the young women claimed to have experienced emotional distress. As compensation, the jury awarded each of the daughters $3 million. Although this money cannot bring their father back to them, it will provide each with the means to pay for the support services necessary to promote resilience and recovery.
Medical malpractice cases such as these are intricate and complex, with only a small percentage resulting in a victory for the patient. For that reason, it is essential that injured parties or their families hire attorneys with demonstrated expertise in this field. Qualified lawyers possess the knowledge, resources and professional networks that are essential for finding and analyzing evidence, hiring medical experts and fighting hospitals and insurance companies. As the above cases illustrate, victory, while rare, can be achieved.