Mid-Year Jury Verdict Round-Up: Top 5 Medical Malpractice Verdicts

Mid-Year Jury Verdict Round-Up: Top 5 Medical Malpractice Verdicts

During the first part of 2014, the attorney editors on the LexisNexis Jury Verdict team covered several notable medical malpractice verdicts from across the country. This informal list of top five cases captured our attention, so we thought you might like to hear about them. Our list includes three rather large plaintiff’s verdicts and two verdicts for the defense. If you are interested in submitting one of your own notable verdicts, we’d be happy to include a report in our database. You can just send us an email at this address: juryverdictsubmissions@lexisnexis.com. In the meantime, please check out the highlighted cases below.

1)   John Wisekal v. Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, et al. 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3251

After Darian Wisekal had a Pap smear in August of 2008, the lab slide was sent to Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp). A LabCorp cytotechnologist erroneously interpreted the slide as "negative for intraepithelial lesion and malignancy." Darian died of cervical cancer some three years later, survived by her husband and two daughters.

John Wisekal, Darian's husband and personal representative of her estate, filed a medical malpractice/wrongful death action in a Florida state court. The action was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern Division of Florida and assigned to Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley. Plaintiff claimed that as a result of the misread, Darian Wisekal's cancer spread and became untreatable. Defendants denied a standard of care failure and further contended that the disease which caused Darian's death was not subject to diagnosis in 2008, even if the LabCorp cytotechnologist had interpreted the relevant Pap smear as atypical. Defendants also claimed that Darian and others, including her treating physicians, contributed to any delay in the diagnosis of her cancer.

On April 16, 2014, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, finding damages in the amount of $20,870,200 However, the jury found the LabCorp cytotechnologist, Glenda Mixon, to be 75% negligent and Darian Wisekal 25% negligent. The verdict amount after reduction for Darian's comparative negligence was $15,652,650.

2)   Samantha Applewhite, as guardian of the person and property of Tiffany Applewhite, an incapacitated person, and Samantha Applewhite, Individually v. Accuhealth, Inc., Linda Russo, R.N., Emergency Medical Services and the City of New York 2010 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 4165 

In February of 1998, Tiffany Applewhite was a 12-year-old girl who received home nursing care from Accuhealth, Inc. and its employee, Linda Russo, R.N. On Feb. 21, 1998, Tiffany suffered an adverse reaction to a steroid shot that Russo had given her for an eye condition. Tiffany went into anaphylactic shock and her heart stopped. Tiffany's mother, Samantha Applewhite, called 911, and the City of New York sent Fire Department medics in a basic ambulance, without the advanced life support equipment she needed, including oxygen and a defibrillator. Although Samantha stated that she begged the city paramedics to take her daughter to Montefiore Hospital, which was a few minutes away, they allegedly advised her to wait for the private ambulance with advanced life support equipment. It took the ambulance 20 minutes to arrive, and Tiffany was transported to Montefiore Hospital. Tiffany suffered significant brain damage, including paralysis, but is allegedly fully aware of her surroundings and situation.

On Sept. 11, 1998, Samantha Applewhite filed an action individually and as Tiffany's guardian in the New York Supreme Court for Bronx County. She named as defendants the following: Accuhealth, Inc., Linda Russo, R.N., Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the City of New York. According to a May 29, 2014 New York Times news article, Accuhealth later filed for bankruptcy relief and Russo settled out of court following an unsuccessful bid for summary judgment dismissal. 2010 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 9655. In addition, the City also made an unsuccessful motion for summary judgment, which was denied on the grounds that the City was not entitled to immunity from liability to persons to whom it owed a "special duty." 2013 N.Y. LEXIS 1672.

In 2014, plaintiffs' case proceeded to a jury trial on the claims against EMS and the City. On May 23, 2014, the jury returned a staggering verdict for the plaintiffs, awarding them a total of $ 172,381,728. This amount included $ 65,000,000.00 for Tiffany's past and future pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. In addition, the award included over $ 90,000,000.00 for future medical care and expense. 

3)    Vivian Gagliano and Philip Gagliano v. Danbury Hospital, Joseph Gordon and Venkata Bodavula  2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 4589

On May 30, 2014, a Connecticut state jury awarded $12,000,000 to Vivian and Philip Gagliano in their medical malpractice action brought after Vivian suffered a perforated colon during an elective laparascopic hernia repair. Plaintiffs argued that the perforated colon was not timely diagnosed and treated. As a result of the alleged delay, Vivian suffered, inter alia, profound septic shock, acute respiratory failure, metabolic encephalopathy with coma, and prolonged intubation and ventilator support. 

In July of 2010, the Galianos filed suit in Danbury Superior Court against Danbury Hospital, Dr. Joseph Gordon, a surgeon, and Dr. Venkata Bodavula, a surgical resident. According news reports, claims brought against Dr. Gordon were settled before trial and on May 30, 2014, and the jury reached a finding against Danbury Hospital after about three and one-half hours of deliberations. 

4)    Keith Bradford v. vs. Hadi Siddiqui, D.O., Renee Young, D.O., Family Physician Residency Program At Wellington Regional Medical Center; And Tara Lynn Stock, D.O. 2014 FL Jury Verdicts Rptr. LEXIS 217 (FL Jury Verdicts Rptr. 2014)

Plaintiff Keith Bradford filed a complaint in Palm Beach, FL on July 26, 2011, asserting medical malpractice claims for the wrongful death of his wife, decedent Heather Bradford. Plaintiff claimed that Heather's death was caused by a delay in diagnosis of an occluded ventriculoperitoneal (vp) shunt, a device used to relieve pressure from the brain caused by fluid accumulation. 

Plaintiff presented evidence that in July of 2010, Heather Bradford presented to Wellington Regional Medical Center with signs and symptoms allegedly consistent with an occluded vp shunt, including, but not limited to, headache, nausea and vomiting and drooping eye. She was admitted to the hospital and a CT scan was performed. Ultimately, the occlusion of the vp shunt caused a herniation in the brain of Heather Bradford which caused her death within 24 hours. 

Plaintiff claimed that defendants, Drs. Siddiqui, Young, and Stock, who were residents/interns at the time, were negligent in failing to consult a neurosurgeon to evaluate Heather and/or the CT scan. The defense argued that Drs. Siddiqui, Young, and Stock had relied on the reading of the CT scan by Dr. Laura Kunberger, who allegedly failed to detect that fluid was building up in Heather Bradford's brain.

 On March 21, 2014, the jury reached a verdict for the defense. 

5)    Meredith Beatrice Hardy, Individually, and in the Capacity of Mother and Next Friend of Her Deceased Infant Children, v. Diana Decotis-Smith, M.D.; Stephen Varner, M.D.; Courtney Meredith, M.D.; Frank L. Bodie, M.D.; Bret Henderson, M.D.; et al. 2014 AL Civil Trial Rptr. LEXIS 175  

On Dec. 17, 2010, plaintiff Meredith Beatrice Hardy was admitted to University of South Alabama Children's and Women's Hospital while 17 weeks pregnant with triplets through IVF and with a chief complaint of vaginal bleeding. All three fetuses were delivered on Dec. 24, 2010. Plaintiff claimed that a Foley catheter was improperly placed by nursing staff into her vagina and then into her urethra, causing an infection. Plaintiff claimed that after the first fetus was delivered stillborn, the other two fetuses could have been saved if defendant Dr. Stephen Varner had not ruptured the amniotic sacs of the other two fetuses and had cut the umbilical cord of the first fetus, causing unnecessary delivery and allowing them to pass through the birth canal that had been infected by the first fetus. Plaintiff also claimed that Dr. Varner failed to treat her urinary tract infection before discharging her on Dec. 26, 2010. Likewise, plaintiff claimed that Dr. Decotis-Smith was negligent in performing a speculum exam without plaintiff's informed consent and in failing to perform an emergency cerclage. Plaintiff included herself, a nurse, as well as her husband, an internal medicine physician, as expert witnesses in a Rule 26 Disclosure, to which defendants objected.

Defendants argued, through the opinions of their experts that it was important to maintain homeostasis in the uterus during a pregnancy. Once that homeostasis was disrupted, as was the case with plaintiff's pregnancy prior to her admission to Children's & Women's, the likelihood of continuing the pregnancy to the point of viability was significantly reduced due to the progression of preterm labor and/or the likelihood of intrauterine infection. Dr. Richard Davis was expected to testify that based upon her presentation on admission to Children's & Women's on Dec. 17th, it was not probable that plaintiff would be able to carry the fetuses to the point of viability. Further, Dr. Davis opined that placing plaintiff on Ampicillin and Azithromycin and placing her in the Trendelenberg position was appropriate and that at no point during the Children's & Women's admission was plaintiff ever a candidate for a rescue emergency cerclage. The presence of cervical dilation, bulging membranes, contractions, cramping and bleeding were all contraindications to a cerclage. Additionally, the speculum exam was necessary given plaintiff's fever of 104 degrees and did not cause the rupture of the membranes. Defense experts also opined that the symptoms that plaintiff was experiencing were related to chorioamnionitis, rather than UTI. Finally, defense experts opined that had the pregnancy been permitted to continue after delivery of the first fetus, plaintiff would have been at significant risk for infertility and even death. 

Following the August 2013 dismissals of Dr. Bodie and Dr. Henderson, the action proceeded to trial in Mobile, AL on the claims against Dr. Decotis-Smith and Dr. Varner. Judge Charles E. Graddick presided. The jury reached a verdict for the defense.

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