A woman, who was the victim of negligent heart surgery when she was one day old, has been awarded one million dollars in heart injury at birth compensation by a court in Pasadena, Los Angeles – more than thirty years after her injury occurred.
The unnamed female underwent corrective heart surgery to repair the septal wall between the two sides of her heart shortly after she was born in May 1979 at the Huntingdon Hospital in Pasadena. However, during the operation, the vena cava artery – the artery which carries de-oxygenised blood to the heart – was attached to the wrong side of the septal wall and, as a consequence of this mistake, the flow of blood was directed into the heart´s left atrium instead of the right atrium. As a result the girl suffered from generalised hypoxia, physical disability and other health problems as she grew up.
Despite frequents post-operative checks by her surgeon – Dr. Alan Gazzaniga of Pasadena – and other medical experts the cause of the girl´s condition was never identified until 2007. Shortly before the woman´s thirtieth birthday in April 2009, she underwent corrective surgery at USC Hospital in Pasadena. The operating surgeon on this occasion described Dr. Gazzaniga´s surgery as “baffling” and “incorrect” and attributed the woman´s “crippling oxygen deprivation and resulting disabilities accompanied with her oxygen starved condition and overall ill health” directly to the negligence of her original surgeon.
After seeking legal advice, the woman made a claim for heart injury at birth compensation against Dr. Gazzaniga. The woman´s legal representatives argued that, although the injury had been sustained more than thirty years ago, the discovery of the cause for the physical condition had happened within the Statute of Limitations. When this argument was opposed by defending counsel, it was contended that it was a reasonable assumption that Dr. Alan Gazzaniga had met the required standard of care at the time of the original operation, and the claimant could not be expected to have known that her heart condition was the result of alleged medical negligence by her surgeon as she was growing up.
This argument was accepted by the judge, and the case proceeded to court. The woman´s legal team prepared a substantial team of expert witnesses, including three cardiothoracic surgeons, who demonstrated how the heart injury was sustained and what the effects had been. After three weeks of litigation, the jury at the Los Angeles County Superior Court found in the woman´s favour and awarded her one million dollars in heart injury at birth compensation.
The family of a boy, who sustained severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy due to an 81 minute delay in performing an emergency Caesarean operation, have been awarded 78.5 million dollars in brain injury at birth compensation by a jury in Philadelphia.
Victoria Upsey (34) from Pottstown, Philadelphia, was admitted to Pottstown Memorial Medical Centre with signs of a placental abruption in August 2008 when she was 36 weeks pregnant. As foetal monitoring proved inconclusive, the duty obstetrician performed a bedside ultrasound examination from which he concluded that the child had died. However, Victoria felt that her baby was still alive and, after summoning the ultrasound technician from his home, a heartbeat was recorded and an emergency Caesarean operation performed.
At the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the Honourable Mark Bernstein heard that the ultrasound equipment used by the obstetrician was more than ten years old and lacked the sensitivity of modern ultrasound equipment. Furthermore, the jury were told that the equipment had not been properly maintained nor checked that it was working properly since its introduction to the hospital despite the operating manual indicating that an annual service was required.
After a lengthy deliberation, the jury found in favour of the Upsey family and awarded 78.5 million dollars in brain injury at birth compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by their son, the future costs of medical care and lost earnings, and the emotional distress suffered by Victoria.
The faulty hip replacement claims were made following a joint investigation by Newsnight and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which alleged that “patients have been kept in the dark about their participation in what has effectively been a large uncontrolled experiment”.
The investigation revealed a long history of alleged cover-ups by the UK medical regulator – The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – claiming that an eight-person “expert” advisory group, established by the MHRA in 2006 to report on the carcinogenic potential of metal-on-metal hip implants, contained two paid DePuy consultants and the director of product development for Smith and Nephew – another metal-on-metal hip replacement system manufacturer.
The advisory group – it was claimed in the Newsnight/BMJ investigation – had the brief to determine the “risk-benefit context” of metal-on-metal hip replacements and although a recommendation was made that patients should sign a consent form “which sets out the fact that the risks associated with metal wear debris have been discussed, including the genotoxic risk and possible sequelae”, the risks and the recommendation were never communicated to orthopaedic surgeons and their patients.
It was also alleged that the MHRA ignored faulty hip replacement claims from the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that high levels of metal ions had been found in umbilical cords and the placental blood of women who had received metal-on-metal hip replacements. Indeed, the MHRA criticised the FDA for issuing a warning without conducting a full risk analysis, when no clinical trials had been conducted in the UK to establish the safety of metal-on-metal hip replacements.
In 2008, Dr Tony Nargol – a consultant orthopaedic surgeon from the University of North Tees – advised DePuy Orthopaedics that he was witnessing a high level of metal debris in patients implanted with the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacement system – not only the ASR hip replacement system which was recalled in 2010 due to a higher than expected failure rate. He claimed on the Newsnight report that he was witnessing system toxicity levels of 20-50 times the permitted levels, with patients suffering inflammations, muscle necrosis and bone decay. This information should have been passed onto the MHRA by DePuy, but was not done so.
The program concluded that the MHRA – the government agency which responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe – had failed in its duty of care by allowing faulty hip replacements to be introduced in the UK without due diligence and had failed to monitor the performance and safety of the metal-on-metal devices. In response to the faulty hip replacement claims, the MHRA announced it was advising 49,000 patients in the UK with “large-head” hip implants to have annual blood tests for life to check for the presence of metal ions.
A woman who was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent surgery to have her stomach removed – only to discover that the tumour within it was benign – has received an undisclosed cancer misdiagnosis compensation settlement from the Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust.
The 74 year old victim, who lives in Rugeley, Staffordshire, underwent surgery in 2004 after she was informed by doctors that a tumour in her stomach was malignant and the whole organ would have to be removed in order to stop the cancer from metastasizing. It was only during her long recovery following the operation that the woman learnt from medical support staff the operation had been unnecessary.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, still suffers from painful digestive problems seven years after the erroneous operation, and has lost a substantial amount of weight as a result. She requires regular assistance in order to perform daily household activities and has had to withdraw from the voluntary work she once did for local charities.
The compensation settlement for the victim´s cancer misdiagnosis includes damages for the pain and suffering she experienced at the time of her operation, throughout the recovery period and that which is ongoing. The settlement also includes an element for the emotional trauma the woman suffered when first being told that she had a life-threatening cancer.
A man from Devon has had a claim for nursing negligence upheld after his private medical records were unlawfully accessed and disclosed, resulting in the exacerbation of an existing psychological complaint
Sean Robert Grinyer from Plymouth, Devon, claimed in his action against the Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust, that the actions of a former partner – who was employed at the hospital as a nurse when the offence occurred in December 2007 – had led to a worsening of his paranoid personality disorder.
He also claimed that Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust had failed to handle his complaint about the issue in an acceptable manner, leading to a further deterioration in his mental health, with the consequence that he had been unable to accept an offer of temporary employment.
Judge Cotter QC, sitting at Plymouth County Court, heard legal counsel argue that the unauthorised disclosure of Mr Grinyer´s private medical records was in breach of Section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 and constituted nursing negligence on behalf of Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust.
After hearing medical testimony relating to the deterioration in Mr Grinyer´s condition, Judge Cotter QC ruled that a personal injury had occurred due to negligence and awarded the claimant 12,500 Pounds in nursing negligence compensation, along with a further 4,800 Pounds in respect of Mr Grinyer´s loss of income.
A man who was discharged from hospital with a broken neck, after he was assured by his doctor that he was “fine”, has won his doctor negligence claim for compensation and been awarded 7 million dollars compensation by a jury at the Federal District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Louis Prager was a healthy husband, father and grandfather who worked as an oil field worker near his home in Campbell County, Wyoming. On December 9 2008, Louis was rushed to Campbell County Memorial Hospital after being involved in a rollover accident in his car. Immobilised and wearing a neck brace, Louis was attended by Dr. Brian Cullison in the Accident and Emergency Department, who organised a CT scan and for x-rays to be taken of Louis´ head and back.
Dr Cullison released Louis the same day – without performing a physical examination, despite his patient complaining on neck pain, and minus the neck brace – but four days later, Louis returned to the Accident and Emergency Department of Campbell County Memorial Hospital having lost the use of his left arm and shoulder. He was diagnosed with multiple cervical spine fractures which had caused C5 nerve root injuries and underwent emergency neck fusion surgery.
Despite several further surgeries to relieve the pain and implant a spinal cord stimulator, the condition became permanent and, after taking legal advice, Luis sued Dr Cullison and the Campbell County Memorial Hospital for doctor negligence.
At the trial, the jury heard the hospital and Dr Cullison both deny the allegations of doctor negligence – with the doctor claiming that he had performed a physical examination and it was not usual practice for the victim of a rollover car accident to have neck x-rays. However, a medical expert testified that had the doctor examined Louis´ neck, he could not have failed to miss the injury.
After deliberating in private, the jury found in favour of Louis, and awarded him 7 million dollars for the pain and suffering he had experienced due to the doctor´s negligence, his loss of amenity and loss of income as he is no longer able to work. The jury also awarded Louis´ wife, Rebecca, a further 2 million dollars for loss of consortium – the combined figure setting a new record for the highest doctor negligence claim settlement in the State of Wyoming.
The family of a prison inmate, who died from bronchopneumonia while serving a fifteen month term for tax evasion, has been awarded 750,000 dollars compensation for wrongful death by a judge in Scranton Pennsylvania.
The claim against the United States Government was made by the widow of 63 year old Louis Thomas Faison, Jr. – a retired teacher, who had pleaded guilty to a charge of tax evasion in September 2007 and was sentenced to serve fifteen months at the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
On 1st April 2008, Louis had been sent to the prison infirmary complaining of a bad cough and generalised pain. He was examined by a physician´s assistant who diagnosed an acute upper respiratory infection and sent Louis back to his cell with a treatment to ease the symptoms of his cough.
Twenty four hours later, Louis returned to the infirmary when his condition significantly worsened. He was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, prescribed an antibiotic and returned to his cell. Less than two hours later, Faison was found unresponsive in his bed by another inmate and transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
In their claim against the government, the family alleged that the prison healthcare provider breached their duty of care towards Louis by failing to conduct a careful and comprehensive examination and by failing to perform the appropriate testing which would have revealed his condition. Their argument was supported by a medical expert, who testified that “The failure to perform a comprehensive lung evaluation and to provide emergent care to Faison … directly led to his death.”
The complaint was upheld by the judge at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and he awarded the family a compensation settlement of 750,000 dollars for wrongful death.
A Pennsylvania woman, who had to have the lower part of both legs removed after a bacterial infection entered her body via a catheter feeding tube, has been awarded 23.1 million dollars in medical malpractice compensation by a jury in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
The 55-year-old woman, who has not been named, was a home patient of St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Home Care in Lehighton and was being treated for complications from Crohn’s disease. In October 2008, a home care nurse noticed the woman was having trouble breathing and had numbing in her lower extremities.
The woman was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital where her symptoms worsened within hours. She was eventually diagnosed with gangrene and a finger on her left hand was amputated, as well as both legs above the knees.
It was claimed in the subsequent action against St. Luke´s that the nurse had failed to notice and report the symptoms of a bacterial infection in a timely manner, and that the delay led to the infection developing in the woman´s bloodstream.
After a protracted court case, the jury at Lehigh County Court found the nurse and St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Home Care liable and awarded medical malpractice compensation of 23.1 million dollars to account for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost earnings.
The heirs of a woman who fell and broken her left leg due to the alleged negligence of an Illinois nursing home, have won their claim for personal injury compensation after a trial which lasted a full week.
Delia Marguerite Giannini (now deceased) resided at the Rosewood Care Centre in Swansea, St. Clair County until her recent death. In 2006, she sued the nursing home following a fall the previous year in which she broke her left femur above the knee. In her claim she alleged that the nursing home had failed to take measures to prevent a fall in line with an anti-wandering policy the nursing home had implemented.
In their defence, the Rosewood Care Centre that the leg broke first and this caused the fall – stating that it was not possible to allocate a member of staff to watch Mrs Giannini at all times. However, the jury found in favour of the claimant and awarded the administrators of her estate 10,000 dollars in respect of the pain and suffering she would have experienced at the time of the accident.
A jury in Waterbury, Connecticut, has awarded the State´s largest ever compensation amount to an eight year old boy who suffered disabling birth injuries during a Caesarean Section delivery in 2002.
Daniel Jacob D´Attilo of Norwalk, Connecticut, sued his mother´s obstetrician – Dr. Richard Viscarello, of Maternal-Fetal Care and Stamford Hospital – through his parents, Dominic and Cathy, alleging medical malpractice before and during the course of his birth.
It was claimed in the action that the doctor and his staff had failed to determine Daniel´s position within the womb and had delayed performing a Caesarean Section operation as a result. It was further claimed that Dr. Viscarello had not warned Mrs D´Attilo about the risks of a C Section delivery and had failed to have a certified anaesthesiologist or expert in placing an endotracheal tube present during the procedure.
The family alleged that, as a result of the doctor´s negligence, Daniel was starved of oxygen prior to his birth and sustained cerebral palsy as a result. The jury in Waterbury heard that Daniel cannot walk and is incapable of talking. He suffers frequent seizures and cannot sit up by himself or stand. Daniel also requires help when he eats and will require a lifetime of care.
The jury found in Daniel´s favour and awarded him the largest ever award of medical malpractice compensation witnessed in Connecticut.
A New Jersey family has settled their claim for birth injury compensation, after their son was brain damaged during his delivery due to a lack of oxygen.
Emily Ordonez of Bayonne, New Jersey, was admitted to the Bayonne Medical Centre on August 14 2005 after showing the first signs of labour. No complications were expected, as all the prenatal tests had indicated that this was a normal and healthy baby.
However, within a short space of time the baby’s heart rate decreased from 140 beats per minute to less than 60 beats per minute due to a compressed umbilical cord. The compression resulted in a prolonged lack of oxygen, and subsequently Emily’s baby son, Jose, is unable to see, walk or hold his head up.
The claim against Bayonne Medical Centre, the delivery room nurse, her supervisor and the obstetrician, was made on the grounds that the delivery nurse waited almost half an hour after noticing the decline in the baby’s heart beat before calling the obstetrician. He, in turn, failed to arrive for twenty minutes, and then did not commence an emergency Caesarean section operation for a further twenty minutes.
The Bayonne Medical Centre admitted liability, and the hospital’s insurance company is to pay 6 million dollars to Jose to provide for his medical care in the future, with a further 2.5 million dollar settlement being paid to Emily and her husband for their emotional pain.
Jose, now 5, still lives at home with three older siblings. He requires full time care due to suffering frequent seizures and has to be fed through a straw.
A widow has been awarded 1.7 million dollars in a medical malpractice action against her departed husband’s physician after he incorrectly diagnosed a heart valve problem as a torn muscle.
Gerard Heidt (42) of Billings, Montana, was a father of four who was known to have a minor heart condition. Apart from that, he was in general good health when visiting his physician in 2004 -, Dr. Faranak Argani of the Billings Clinic – complaining of a pain in his chest.
Dr. Argani misdiagnosed the pain as a torn muscle, when in fact Gerard was suffering from a leaky valve. Had Gerard been correctly diagnosed, he would have received a replacement heart valve. Instead Gerard was dead within a year, and the family claimed in their court action that he should have been referred to a heart specialist.
A jury at Yellowstone County Court found both Dr. Argani and the Billings Clinic guilty of negligence, determining that the death was entirely avoidable. They awarded Gerard’s widow, Amy, and her four children – one of whom suffers from learning difficulties – 1.6 million dollars for lost wages and a further 120,000 towards the children’s education.
New statistics have revealed that birth injuries are the single biggest contributor to the increase in medical negligence compensation in the UK.
The highest payments for birth injuries typically involve cases where babies are starved of oxygen at birth. Poor standards of care during maternity has been a common factor in many cases.
The total compensation for the serious medical negligence claims over the past 14 years was £1.8 billion, with over 600 patients receiving over £1 million. Some 314 babies were left with cerebral palsy due to during birth injuries during this period. Two recent awards illustate the problems created by child births, which can lead a child needing lifelong long-term care: a ten year old boy was awarded £7.1 million due to severe brain damage from birth and another child received a settlement of £9.7 million compensation after being left badly disabled by a birth injury.
Almost 50 years after thalidomide caused hundreds of severe birth defects in the UK, the Minister for Health has issued an official apology to the victims and offered a £20m support packaget to be administered through the Thalidomide Trust. A UK government agency had a role in approving the drug in 1958 for use in the UK.
There are nearly 500 thalidomide survivors in the UK, who each receive £18,000 per year from the Thalidomide Trust, which administers the compensation provided by thalidomide’s manufacturer.
Thalidoide is a sedative-hypnotic and multiple myeloma drug that causes severe birth defects may result if the drug is taken during pregnancy. Thalidomide was sold worldwide from 1957 until 1961, including in Ireland, with up to 20,000 victims globally.
The Irish government has yet to apologise for allowing thalidomide to be distributed in Ireland.
Rhiannon Hayman of Bridgend, was awarded a compensation package of about £6.5 million arising out of the significant brain damage she suffered at birth in November 1994. Liability for the medical negligence claim was admitted by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board, who also gave an unreserved apology, and there was agreement compensation package. Hayman, now 15 years old, was born at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend and suffered a severe lack of oxygen during the procedure. Hayman needs 24-hour care and assistance for the rest of her life.
The settlement is a model for how compensation for injuries that require long term care should be packaged, consisting of a lump sum of more than £2 million and annual payments of between £105,000 to £160,000.
Mark Thomas has just been awarded £3.2million in compensation for failure to diagnose meningitis, compounded by the fact that the victim was turned away from Walsall Manor Accident and Emergency Department and his parents were admonished at the time for ‘misusing the emergency services’. It took a second opinion five days after the initial hospital visit to determine that Mark Thomas had meningitis.
In this tragic case, Mark Thomas has been left with brain damage and no short term memory and will never be able to work or live without a carer. The NHS trust involved has apologised to the family.
Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Some of the common symptoms include headaches, neck stiffness, fever, confusion, vomiting, and light or noise intolerance. Meningitis is life-threatening and has a high mortality rate if untreated and delayed treatment can result in brain damage. Wide-spectrum antibiotics are therefore normally prescribed immediately, even before confirmatory tests are conducted.