In medical malpractice cases, the issue is whether doctors acted as reasonable medical professionals in their situation. However, as the following case demonstrates, there are certain extreme examples where the answer to that question is relatively clear. In those cases, the question becomes one of damages.
Damages & Medical Malpractice
Damages are designed to restore the victim to the position they were in before they suffered the harm in the case. Beyond medical expenses, juries may also award damages to compensate the victim for many other items, like earnings they would have received but now will not because of the injuries. They may also award damages to compensate the victim for the pain and suffering they have endured. In certain cases, they may also award punitive damages to punish the defendant and try to prevent future occurrences. For victims of medical malpractice, money may not be able to completely fill the void left, but as the case below shows, often it can go a long way toward compensating the victim and restoring justice.
In 2009, a woman was in a hospital to undergo a routine gynecological procedure. She returned to the hospital a day later, and following a medically induced coma, she awoke having lost both of her legs and most of her hearing. More than four years later, this devastating tale of medical negligence has resulted in a $62 million jury award.
The 34-year old patient underwent a laparascopic procedure to remove an ectopic pregnancy. The procedure involves removing an embryo that has implanted outside the uterus through small incisions in the abdomen. She expected a short, routine stay in the hospital. Indeed, she was discharged shortly after the procedure. However, the next day her stomach started to swell and she went back to the hospital.
At the hospital, the patient went into cardiac arrest and was placed in a medically induced coma. As a result of her initial procedure, the woman had suffered blood poisoning and gangrene, causing severe hearing loss and forcing doctors to amputate both of her legs below her knees. When she awoke three weeks later in the ICU, she was a double amputee and was mostly deaf. The woman is now confined to a wheelchair, and the hearing loss is likely to be permanent.
The patient filed a medical malpractice suit in 2010. She alleged that doctors punctured her colon during her initial procedure, which resulted in the subsequent infection and blood poisoning.
At the trial, the hospital did not dispute this mistake, instead arguing that the complication was difficult to detect, that the side effects came on very quickly, and that doctors acted swiftly and properly to save her life once they discovered the issues.
However, for the jurors, this was a clear-cut case of medical negligence
“We knew mistakes had been made,” one juror told the New York Daily News. “Our main issue was who’s responsible and how much money do you put on the loss of enjoyment of life, on the loss of a limb.”
Following three days of deliberation, the jury awarded Galette $4 million for medical expenses and $58 million for past and future pain and suffering.
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