Five Lessons to Learn From the Five Biggest Medical Malpractice Cases Ever
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Up to one in every twenty patients will be impacted by a preventable error, and recent studies list medical malpractice as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Luckily, the courts have recognized the massive financial and emotional toll these cases can have on victims, and have been awarding larger payments to those who have been impacted. So what can we learn by looking at some of the largest medical malpractice cases ever?
Case Number 5 – $135 Million
In 2011, 10-year-old Faith DeGrand was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Detroit for routine scoliosis surgery, but the surgeon inserted the rods and screws in such a way that her spinal cord became compressed. The surgeon in charge of her recovery then left for vacation, and the damage was not noticed for 10 days, which resulted in Faith becoming a quadriplegic. But the hospital tried to claim that her injuries were caused by a “phantom blood clot”.
The Lesson: Ensuring that the proper records are located and utilized can help prove a case. Faith’s lawyers were able to prove that there was never a blood clot by obtaining her medical records, which rendered the hospital’s defense useless.
Case Number 4 – $172 Million
In 1998, Ms. Applewhite went into anaphylactic shock after a nurse injected her with steroids for an eye condition. Her mother called 911, but the medics arrived without oxygen or a defibrillator. The paramedics then recommended that Ms. Applewhites mother wait for another ambulance instead of taking her immediately to a hospital. The ambulance took 20 minutes to arrive, during which Ms. Applewhite suffered brain damage and paralysis.
The Lesson: When determining negligence, it’s important to understand that it may not come from just one party. The nurse who administered the shot should have had an epi pen to counter any potential allergic reaction. The ambulance company should have supplied all its ambulances with life saving equipment, and the EMT’s should have immediately taken the child to a hospital.
Case Number 3 – $190 Million
In 2014, John Hopkins Hospital paid out $190 million to 8,000 plaintiffs on behalf of Dr. Nikita Levy, a gynecologist who had practiced there. Dr. Levy was discovered to have been secretly taking pictures and videos of his patients for years using a hidden camera. After being fired by the hospital, Dr. Levy committed suicde, and the hospital paid out the settlement.
The Lesson: Medical malpractice doesn’t just mean negligent behavior. Medical malpractice encompasses a wide array of wrongs that can be perpetrated by a hospital or individual practitioner.
Case Number 2 – $205 Million
While initially awarded $229 million, due to state caps on medical malpractice suits, Erica Byrom received a total of $205 million after her daughter suffered a brain injury during birth at John Hopkins. Byrom was told that her baby was non-viable and that she should terminate the child before birth. As a result, she declined a c-section and nurses ceased monitoring her unborn child during labor. Her daughter lived, but as a result, now has cerebral palsy.
The Lesson: Every state has different laws regarding caps on payments to victims. Pennsylvania has no caps on damages currently, but New Jersey does impose caps on punitive damages.
Case Number 1 – $216.7 Million
Allan Navarro suffered a stroke and went to the ER where he was diagnosed with sinusitis and sent home with pain-killers. The next day he returned to the ER and was this time diagnosed with a stroke. This diagnosis came too late, and Mr. Navarro was left with permanent brain damage.
Mr. Navarro was reluctant to bring a medical malpractice suit at first, as he and his family felt that, while tragic, the accident was perhaps an understandable human error. But Mr. Navarro’s lawyers uncovered that the man who performed his initial intake at the hospital was actually an unlicensed physician’s assistant who was not qualified to diagnose or treat patients.
The Lesson: Of course, mistakes can happen in any profession, and hospitals are no exception. But a skilled attorney can uncover facts about seemingly unavoidable hospital errors that can prove a hospital was wilfully negligent.
The Biggest Lesson?
Regardless of the case, the most important thing to know about your medical malpractice case is that you need an experienced lawyer by your side to help you navigate the legal challenges ahead of you.
Since 2001, Richard Hollawell has handled countless medical malpractice cases and can help you secure the maximum compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 800-681-3550 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.
Images provided by: Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images