5 Medical Malpractice Verdict Stories

Profiles and outcomes in a few actual medical malpractice court cases.


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In this article, we'll profile jury verdicts and compensation awards in five real-life medical malpractice cases.

Nelson. v. Novich-Welter. (Milwaukee County, Wisconsin 2009). In September 2000, Daniel R. Nelson was riding his motorcycle when a car pulled out in front of him, causing both he and his wife to be thrown from the motorcycle. Danile was severely injured, and was sent to a medical facility for rehabilitation. After the accident, he was able to walk short distances. The doctor then inserted a tracheotomy tube to help him breathe. One morning, when it appeared that Nelson was not breathing, the attending physician, Lorraine C. Novich-Welter responded to the situation, but waited too long before requesting an emergency team for assistance. As a result, Nelson almost died and ended up in a coma for seven weeks. Even though he recovered from this ordeal, he has been left confined to a wheelchair with severe memory and speech problems. The Wisconsin jury awarded him $2.1 million in damages in 2009.

McQuitty v. Spangler (Court of Appeals of Maryland 2009). In April 1995, Peggy McQuitty was admitted to the hospital suffering from a partial placental abruption at just 28 weeks gestation. She was stabilized and kept in the hospital for observation under the care of her obstetrician, Dr. Donald Spangler. A second abruption occurred, along with decreased amniotic fluid, and a diagnosis of intrauterine growth restriction was made. The plaintiff alleged that Dr. Spangler failed to inform Mrs. McQuitty as to how the changes in her condition would affect her baby. The doctor made the decision to wait until she was 36 weeks pregnant before performing a Cesarean section. Mrs. McQuitty experienced a complete placental abruption on May 8th and an emergency c-section was performed. The baby was deprived of oxygen, which caused severe neurological damage. The Court of Appeals of Maryland upheld a ruling that Dr. Spangler had violated the doctrine of informed consent, and also upheld a damages award of over $13 million.

Family of Shannyn MacPherson v. Dr. John J. Ambrosino (Brockton, Massachusetts 2008). Shannyn MacPherson, a healthy 30-year old woman, had gone to Dr. Ambrosino for treatment regarding a lump on her thyroid gland. Shannyn’s family filed suit against Dr. Ambrosino and his practice when she died from uncontrolled bleeding that occurred after undergoing thyroid surgery in 2001. In 2008, a jury awarded $14.5 million to the family, one of the largest awards in Massachusetts that year.

Donathan v. Gordon (Tennessee Federal Court 2010). A Tennessee woman and her husband were awarded a malpractice judgment of $22.2 million after medical workers inserted an epidural catheter for post-operative pain control following surgery to repair her broken lower right leg. This resulted in a spinal bleed that left her paralyzed from the waist down. The jury determined that medical officials who inserted the catheter should have taken into account the risks for such a procedure due to the fact that she was on blood thinner medications at the time.

Family of Amy Altman v. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Suffolk County, Massachusetts 2008). The family of Amy Altman filed a lawsuit against the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and two doctors for medical negligence over their failure to diagnose her symptoms properly. Altman was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2003 and agreed to enroll in a clinical trial for an aggressive chemotherapy regimen at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for treatment. When she developed significant bouts of diarrhea, the doctors failed to order tests or prescribe proper treatment and dismissed her complaints as side effects from the chemotherapy treatment, before sending her home. In July 2003, Amy Altman died after being rushed to a local emergency room. She was diagnosed as suffering from sepsis and a flesh-eating infection. The Suffolk County (Massachusetts) jury found for the plaintiff and awarded a judgment of over $13 million.

(To get a breakdown of data on plantiffs, defendants, and types of medical errors, read our article National Statistics on Medical Malpractice Cases.)

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