$5 Million Jury Verdict for Negligent Postoperative Care / Brain Injury
- Date: Winter 2002
- Settlement: $5,000,000
- Practice Areas: Medical Malpractice, Negligent Postoperative Care, Failure to Diagnose and Treat Brain Injury
The firm represented a little girl and her family in the medical negligence case involving negligent postoperative care from a covering pediatric cardiologist. The physician failed to recognize and treat ongoing respiratory distress which caused brain damage and blindness.
The little girl survived cardiac surgery required to repair congenital defects in her heart, and would have recovered very well if her postoperative condition had been properly monitored. Instead, the junior pediatric cardiologist placed in charge of her care misinterpreted ongoing signs of respiratory distress reported by the nurses as agitation. The doctor made her condition worse by prescribing Valium for the agitation, which further suppressed her ventilation. Then, the doctor also failed to respond immediately to an x-ray which showed either air or blood in one of the child’s lungs, which further suppressed her ability to ventilate. The two-year-old girl then suffered a full respiratory arrest and profound brain damage before she could be resuscitated. The defense argued that this was a cardiac arrest, and a late result of her earlier surgery which could not be prevented or anticipated. The firm used graphic charts of the child’s blood gas, ventilation and electrolyte results to prove this arrest was due to respiratory distress and not causally related to her heart condition or surgery. In particular, the firm showed digital images on a computer at trial, including transcriptions of the nursing notes which indicted splinting from lack of oxygen, and showing the doctor was made aware of that condition. Presentation of these digital materials, accompanied by the plaintiffs’ critical care expert’s testimony proved this case. The infant, who suffered profound brain damage and lost her sight, was awarded $5,000,000 by the jury. However, since the doctor’s insurance coverage was only $1,000,000, a separate law suit was then required to successfully recover the excess verdict of $4,000,000 by proving “bad faith” by the insurer in failing to offer the full extent of its one million dollar policy limit during the medical malpractice trial.