Did you know that, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, medical error (or malpractice) is the third-leading cause of death in the United States? Behind only cancer and heart disease? Of course, medical professionals are human and prone to mistakes just like everyone else. But when people literally put their lives in their doctors’ hands, they trust the physicians’ skill, experience, and abilities and expect to emerge from their doctors’ care unharmed…or, at the very least, in better condition than when they first visited.
Sadly, too many patients wind up as victims of medical malpractice. Here is a roundup of some recent medical malpractice news across the United States:
California Increases Medical Malpractice Award Caps
In May, the California Legislature agreed to increase how much money people can win in medical malpractice lawsuits for the first time in 47 years. Since 1975, the most money that Californians could win for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits was $250,000. Beginning January 1, 2023, however, the cap will increase to $350,000 for people who were injured and $500,000 for the relatives of people who died.
Those amounts will increase gradually over the next decade until they reach $750,000 for injured patients and $1 million for families of deceased patients. After that, the caps will increase 2% every year to keep up with inflation.
West Virginia Jury Awards Paralyzed Man $17.2 Million in Medical Malpractice Suit
In March, a West Virginia jury awarded more than $17 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit to a man who was left paralyzed after undergoing spinal surgery and later suffered a stroke. According to the lawsuit, Michael Rodgers received treatment for motorcycle accident injuries in June 2017 at Charleston Area Medical Center. When he arrived, Mr. Rodgers was able to move his arms and legs but then lost motor function and sensation in his lower extremities after his first surgery by Dr. John R. Orphanos, a neurosurgeon.
A second surgery left him a permanent paraplegic. In the suit, Mr. Rodgers contended that Dr. Orphanos failed to order a pre-surgery MRI of his spine to identify any problems. The jury sided with Mr. Rodgers, finding the doctor negligent and that his actions contributed to Mr. Rodgers’ stroke in July 2020.
Iowa Family Awarded Over $97 Million in Lawsuit Over Birth Brain Injury
In what is believed to be the largest medical malpractice verdict in the history of Iowa, a jury in Johnson County handed down a $97.4 million award to Kathleen and Andrew Kromphardt, whose son’s brain was severely damaged during birth at an Iowa City hospital. The lawsuit contended that their son’s brain injury was the result of the medical staff’s failure to act on signs that the baby was oxygen-deprived in the hours before his birth as well as failure to deliver the baby by cesarean section.
The boy, who is now three, is unable to walk or speak more than a few words and will require 24-hour care for the rest of his life. Of the $97.4 million award, more than $42 million will go toward the child’s future medical and/or custodial costs, and the rest is for loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Oregon Man Sues for $43.5 Million After Paralysis from Brain Surgery
In March, Jackie Dale Yeley filed a lawsuit against the St. Charles Health System as well as Northwest Brain and Spine surgery providers in Bend, Oregon, after complications from brain surgery left him paralyzed. During his initial surgery by Dr. Kent Yundt to correct numbness in his left foot and left leg pain, Mr. Yeley suffered an accidental tear of the dura, which is a tough membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The following day, Mr. Yeley began suffering from severe pain; the next day, another surgeon performed emergency surgeries to drain fluid and relieve the pressure on Mr. Yeley’s brain. He never recovered feeling in his lower extremities and is unable to use his legs.
Proving Medical Malpractice
To prove medical malpractice, a lawyer must demonstrably show that medical doctor, surgeon, dentist, chiropractor or other healthcare provider:
- Had a duty of care to the patient
- Breached the standard of that care (or acted in a way that a reasonable, similarly trained physician, surgeon, dentist, or chiropractor would not have acted)
- The breach or error caused significant harm to the patient
Types of Medical Malpractice Cases
- Failure to diagnose: If a doctor misses a diagnosis (or makes an incorrect diagnosis) that any other reasonably competent physician would not have missed.
- Surgical malpractice: This covers amputation of the wrong body part, committing a surgical error that was avoidable, or operating outside the area designated for the operation.
- Failure to refer to a medical specialist: Complex medical problems often require specialized doctors. In these cases, the law requires a medical professional to consult with or refer to a specialist or sub-specialist physician trained specifically to treat certain complex conditions and interpret diagnostic tests that other physicians are not trained to do. For example, only a neurologist can administer and interpret an EEG, a critical test in diagnosing a brain injury). Failure to do so when severe harm results to a patient is grounds for medical malpractice.
- Lack of informed consent: This occurs when a physician either a) performs a procedure a patient did not agree to, b) did not sufficiently explain the risks and benefits of a treatment, c) had the doctor adequately explained the risks and benefits, the patient would’ve either declined the procedure/treatment or chosen an alternative. In these types of cases, we look to see whether the victim experienced significant harm.
- Extraordinary consequences: Physicians are obligated to explain risks and benefits that are generally common to the treatment or procedure, but they’re not required to describe highly unusual risks. However, if a patient experiences one of those highly unusual scenarios, that could signify a mistake on the doctor’s part. For example, a surgeon left a foreign body in the victim’s body from a previous procedure.
- Premature discharge from care: This is most common in hospital settings but can also happen in any circumstance where a medical doctor renders ongoing care that requires treatment. This must be proven by showing that a competent health care professional in the same circumstances would not have discharged the patient. Early discharge when severe harm results to a patient is grounds for medical malpractice.
If You Believe You or a Loved One Is a Victim of Medical Malpractice…
The seasoned medical malpractice attorneys at The Lapidus Law Firm can analyze whether you or a family member has a viable claim of medical malpractice. The first step is to call us at (202) 785-5111 or (301) 852-7500 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.
Negligent doctors and medical facilities must be held accountable for their mistakes when it comes to examinations, medical workups and treatments. The Lapidus Law Firm is here to help hold them accountable. Call us! We are committed to making justice work for you.