Medical malpractice is when a doctor or other medical professional negligently makes a mistake that results in injury or illness to a patient.
If a plaintiff (the patient) suffered an injury because of a doctor’s mistake, they might claim that:
- The provider didn’t use their best judgment in determining treatment or care.
- The provider failed to use reasonable care and diligence to apply their knowledge and skill to the patient’s treatment.
Some common medical malpractice claims include:
- Errors while administering anesthesia
- Childbirth mistakes that lead to injury for mother or baby
- Failure to diagnose a disease or condition
- Errors when prescribing medication
If a medical accident or mistake does happen, it can result in devastating and life-changing injuries.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are among the most complex, difficult, and heart-rending cases in the legal system.
Often, a medical malpractice claim results in a very high verdict or settlement. The reason is because living is expensive. A person who has a disability or illness has a lifetime of costs. In addition to the regular costs of living (housing, food, etc.), they might not be able to earn a living and therefore have no source of income.
The patient could also have additional needs like adaptive devices, ongoing therapies, continued extensive medical treatment, modifications to their home or car, special school or tutoring, and other costs that add up quickly.
So, while you might see a lot of zeros in these verdicts and think they seem excessive, they are actually carefully calculated amounts that have been negotiated and counted to exactly compensate a plaintiff for their costs, including pain and suffering and emotional distress if necessary.
Let’s take a look at the largest verdict amounts for medical malpractice cases in 2019:
|Biggest medical malpractice cases of 2019|
|Name of case||Amount awarded|
|G.S. v. Walker||$101 million|
|Jones v. Jones||$56 million|
|Murray vs. Valley Health System||$48.63 million|
|A.B., Pro Ami v. Cross Country Staffing Inc.||$30.55 million|
|Estate of Sledge v. The DCH Health Care Authority, et al.||$30 million|
|Estate of Torres v. Gonzalez-Garcia, et al.||$24.5 million|
|L.B., Pro Ami v. Jefferson County Public Hospital District||$23.9 million|
|A.W. v. Presence St. Joseph Hospital||$23.594 million|
|Guessanbi v. St. Louis University||$18.2 million|
|McCloud v. Montefiore Medical Center||$18 million|
1. G.S. v. Walker (Illinois): $101 million
Baby Gerald Sallis suffered a brain injury at birth. Gerald’s mother, Tequila Sallis, claimed that he would not have suffered a birth injury if the medical personnel in the hospital had notified doctors of abnormalities so an emergency C-section could be performed. Gerald, now 5 years old, is expected to have a normal life expectancy, though he is not able to speak or care for himself in any way.
2. Jones v. Jones (New York): $56 million
Patricia Jones, 67, suffered neck-down paralysis following spinal surgery. During the procedure, a monitoring signal between her brain and extremities failed to alert doctors of a blood clot. The clot resulted in damage to her spinal cord that left her paralyzed. However, her medical team told her that she had a stroke during the surgery, rather than acknowledging the mistake.
The plaintiff claimed that she would not have consented to the surgery if she’d been informed of the risks.
3. Murray vs. Valley Health System (Nevada): $48.63 million
Dwayne Murray and his 7-year-old daughter Brooklynn filed a lawsuit against the Valley Health System hospital for the death of their wife and mother, LaQuinta Whitley Murray. They received $10.5 million in compensatory damages and $32.4 million in punitive damages.
Hospital staff administered ketorolac tromethamine (Toradol), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to LaQuinta, who was in the hospital for treatment of pain related to sickle cell anemia, acute chronic anemia, and strep throat.
However, the medication administered was in excess of the manufacturer’s recommended dose. As a result, 29-year-old Ms. Murray suffered 5 cardiac arrests that ultimately resulted in her death.
4. A.B., Pro Ami v. Cross Country Staffing Inc. (Massachusetts): $30.55 million
The plaintiffs claimed that a nurse failed to properly monitor a baby during delivery. Prior to baby Aiden Boulter’s birth, a nurse was using a hand-held device to monitor his heart rate, rather than using a required continuous fetal heart rate monitor. Experts said that the nurse was actually monitoring his mother’s heart rate, rather than the baby’s. When Aiden was born, he was not breathing and had almost no heartbeat because his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck in the birth canal. As a result, he suffered severe brain injuries.
This birth injury lawsuit reached a confidential settlement on the same day as the jury awarded a $30 million verdict. The final settlement amount was not made public, but the defendant anticipated paying about $1 million directly to the family, with its insurer covering the remaining amount.
5. Estate of Sledge v. The DCH Health Care Authority, et al. (Alabama): $30 million
Johnny Sledge, 24, was shot in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2013. He was rushed to the hospital for treatment of his gunshot injuries. However, the on-call surgeon was performing an elective surgery and did not provide the life-saving surgery Sledge needed to survive.
Sledge died after being in the emergency room for 2 hours. He required immediate surgery for his internal injuries, but a surgeon did not treat him in time. The hospital’s policy was that although the on-call trauma surgeon was permitted to schedule elective procedures at that time, they were required to have another surgeon available to fill in. The surgeon completed the first elective procedure and began a second elective procedure while Sledge was still awaiting treatment in the ER.
As Sledge was being transported to the hospital, the emergency responders called in a trauma alert to the emergency department. The surgeon was alerted and asked to respond to the ER, but he said he was busy and the staff should call someone else. The hospital was not able to find another surgeon and surgery was necessary. When the on-call surgeon was paged a second time, he suggested transferring Sledge to another hospital. Sledge died while waiting for a surgeon.
6. Estate of Torres v. Gonzalez-Garcia, et al. (Florida): $24.5 million
Lilia Torres was a mother of 3 and died from avoidable complications during the birth of her fourth child. Torres had a condition that was known to her medical team and she had a scheduled C-section. Torres had placenta previa, which had been diagnosed prior to childbirth and was managed during the course of her pregnancy. However, she suffered massive blood loss during the surgery. Because of this, the surgeons also performed a hysterectomy during the C-section.
As a result of her blood loss, Torres suffered cardiac and pulmonary shock with severe hypoxia after the surgery. The hospital placed her on a ventilator and she received blood cells and plasma. The hospital returned her to the OR for additional exploratory surgery, but she passed away later that day from hemorrhagic shock and multi-organ failure.
The verdict was intended to care for her family, including her husband and 4 young children.
7. L.B., Pro Ami v. Jefferson County Public Hospital District (Washington): $23.9 million
Anna Scott and Zachary Burke went to the Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center to have their baby, Lena. When Lana was delivered, she was blue and required extensive resuscitation in order to breathe. This loss of oxygen resulted in permanent brain damage, and she remains mentally and physically limited for life.
Her parents argued that medical providers missed critical signs that the baby was in distress during delivery because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Similar to the Boulter case mentioned above, Lana’s parents argued that the cause of her injuries was that the hospital did not realize that the fetal heart monitor used during labor and delivery was picking up the mother’s heartbeat, not the baby’s. Hospital staff proceeded with the delivery believing that the baby was not in distress.
Medical experts said that a labor and delivery team should routinely take the mother’s heart rate separately from the baby’s to ensure that they know whose is whose. This hospital was not following standard protocols.
Lana will have a permanent cognitive impairment, speech and language deficits, and impaired motor skills for life. She is now 6 years old and is unable to dress or feed herself.
8. A.W. v. Presence St. Joseph Hospital (Illinois): $23.594 million
Amirah Whiten, now 4 years old, suffered brain damage because doctors at the Amita Health Saint Joseph Hospital in Chicago failed to perform a C-section on her mother fast enough to prevent Amirah from sustaining injury.
Marquita Snow-Whiten was admitted to the hospital because she had fallen and wanted to be sure that her unborn baby was still safe. She had some tests, was discharged, and then had additional tests in the days following.
She returned to the hospital 5 days later because she had been kicked in the stomach. At that time, a fetal heart monitor displayed problems with the baby’s heart rate. Amirah was born by C-section 3 hours after her mother was admitted to the hospital. However, Amirah suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which means her brain did not receive enough blood or oxygen for a period of time.
Amirah now has permanent, extensive mental and motor deficits including profound brain injury. The plaintiffs’ verdict was based on the hospital’s failure to perform a C-section quickly enough to treat Amirah’s condition.
9. Guessanbi v. St. Louis University (Missouri): $18.2 million
In 2016, a previously healthy 3-year-old arrived in the emergency room complaining of stomach pain, diarrhea, fever, and elevated vital signs. She was discharged about 2 hours later and her mother was told to administer ibuprofen as needed and that her symptoms would resolve on their own. The hospital did not perform any diagnostic testing.
The following evening, the child’s symptoms became worse and the mother noted blood in her stool. She made an appointment to see the child’s primary physician the following morning. The child was seen by a pediatric nurse practitioner in the same hospital where she’d been the previous day for blood in her stool, dry mouth, nausea and weight loss.
Although the hospital personnel was aware that E.Coli is the most common cause of bloody diarrhea in children, and that the illness could be deadly, they did not admit the child for treatment. They discharged her a second time and provided her mother with Tylenol and Pedialyte.
The mother called the hospital 3 hours later and said that the child was getting worse and vomiting, in addition to diarrhea. She was also lethargic and not urinating. They returned to the ER, where she was determined to be severely dehydrated. She was evaluated by a physician, administered intravenous hydration and sent home.
Two days later, the child’s father found her unresponsive in their home in a pool of bloody diarrhea. She was readmitted to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a kidney injury. She remained in the hospital for 3 months and developed complications including kidney failure, seizures, neurological failure, and diabetes. She finally returned home as an insulin-dependent diabetic with high blood pressure, kidney disease, and cognitive injury after intensive rehabilitation and chronic dialysis. She will have a lifetime of kidney transplants and hospitalizations.
The damage award of $18 million is based on the hospital’s failure to admit her to the hospital for proper monitoring and supportive care when she first arrived. If she had received proper treatment, she would not have suffered any of the permanent injuries that remain.
10. McCloud v. Montefiore Medical Center (New York): $18 million
Charlene McCloud arrived at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. She was 24 weeks pregnant and complaining of pain and a pink discharge. The doctors treated her for a urinary tract infection and sent her home.
She returned later that day with the same symptoms. A maternal-fetal-medicine physician determined that she was at high risk for premature delivery and complications. She was prescribed medication to prevent premature delivery and to assist in the baby’s lung development.
Two days later, Charlene delivered baby Somaya as a footling breech vaginal delivery. Somaya has Erb’s palsy and brain damage and cannot speak or communicate. She has special assistance in school and will require assistance for her lifetime and will not be able to work.
Charlene argued that her child was injured during delivery and that a C-section should have been performed because Somaya was both breech and premature. Charlene was not properly informed about the risks of vaginal delivery, and the hospital breached its duty of care.
Are you a victim of medical malpractice?
If you believe you’ve suffered an injury because of a doctor’s negligence, you might be able to recover damages in a lawsuit. The Enjuris law firm directory can guide you to a medical malpractice lawyer who can help you receive the damages you need to move forward.