Over the last few weeks your Charleston, SC attorney has been discussing serious injuries related to pharmaceutical and medication errors. Below are two unrelated instances in which middle-aged women entered hospitals for treatment of a specific condition, suffered complications due to hospital mistakes, and were ultimately much worse at release than when admitted to the respective hospitals’ care.
A civil jury in the Bronx awarded a brain-damaged woman a sum around $120 million for a series of New York City hospital mistakes. The sum is the one of the largest ever awarded in a medical malpractice verdict in the State of New York. The brain injury stems from a February 2004 hospital visit for a seizure. According to the now 45-year-old woman’s medical malpractice lawyer, medical personnel mismanaged the woman’s medications, failed to respond swiftly to “crises” and did not provide essential treatments. After receiving anti-seizure medication, the woman suffered an allergic reaction, causing severe swelling in her face, eyes and throat. The condition is known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and is an extremely rare and severe skin disorder that is due to an allergic reaction or viral infection, and constitutes a dermatological emergency.
An appeal of the monstrous verdict appears to be imminent as the city claims the award is excessive, saying the judgment is neither consistent with the law nor the facts of the case. Citing that the woman earned less than $40,000 a year as a claims adjuster, but was awarded $10 million in lost earnings, and further explaining that her past medical costs totaling $583,000 (and covered by Medicaid) were compensated by the jury in the amount of $5 million. To note, it has been long been considered that civil juries in the Bronx are the most generous in New York City. In fact, a personal injury lawyer told the Associated Press in 1990 that “If I’m a plaintiff, I rather be there than anyplace in the world.”
The woman’s medical malpractice attorney was quick to point out that even if the specific awards mentioned above are excessive, combined they only amount to a little more than 10 percent of the total verdict.
In an unrelated medical malpractice incident a 45-year-old Wyoming woman that initially went to the hospital to have coronary artery surgery, developed a severe infection in her knee, and ended up completely blind in both of her eyes.
A lawsuit against three doctors, two nurses, and their employers was originally filed in February 2008, but has been delayed until now because “pretrial wrangling” and a backlog of cases. The medical malpractice suit was filed on behalf of the woman by her husband and claims the aforementioned hospital staff failed to act “reasonably, prudently and in accordance with applicable standards of care.”
Damages specified in the suit amount to $50,000 for loss of companionship and consortium. In general, loss of consortium is based upon the idea that a serious injury, or wrongful death, may result in a loss of companionship, society and comfort to the non-injured, or widowed, spouse. Not indicated in the suit is the amount sought in punitive damages. As noted in a recent South Carolina Injury Lawyer Blog post, punitive damages are not directly linked to the amount and extent of injury suffered by plaintiff, rather serve to deter future behavior. Compensatory damages, on the other hand, are awarded to restore the plaintiff to where he/she would have been had the tort not occurred.
According to plaintiff’s attorney, a prescription drug cocktail prescribed by doctors and administered by hospital staff after an operation to remover the woman’s prosthetic knee caused her blood pressure to drop severely and blocked blood flow to vital organs. Nurses discovered the woman unresponsive, in renal failure (more commonly known as kidney failure) and totally blind five days after entering the hospital for heart surgery.