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Appellate court upholds $7.5 million medical malpractice award
Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Mar 15, 2011
A recent decision by a federal appeals court upheld a judgment of $7.5 million in a medical malpractice case. The damage award came as the result of a lawsuit filed by a woman who was treated at the clinic at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
The woman is married to a master sergeant in the Air Force. When she experienced numbness in her groin, legs and feet, she went to the clinic at Andersen. She was seen by a nurse and a physician's assistant, but not by a doctor. The staff that did see her did not examine her or perform any tests for the numbness; nor did they inform their supervisors of the woman's symptoms. The clinic staff's failure to diagnose her condition proved to be a serious error.
As her condition grew worse over several weeks, the woman confronted the clinic staff and demanded a referral to the hospital at Naval Base Guam. They gave her the referral, but not an emergency referral. The standard referral they gave her required her to wait five days for an appointment.
When she was seen at Naval Base Guam, a navy doctor immediately determined that she had a severe spinal condition caused by a herniated disc and ordered her to be airlifted to Hawaii where an emergency operation was performed.
At trial, evidence was introduced that the woman's symptoms were not alleviated after the emergency operation, and that she continues to have problems sitting, walking and sleeping. The delay in treatment caused nerve damage, resulting in a loss of sensation below the waist and permanent incontinence.
The judge in the trial court awarded $7.5 million in damages, and the government appealed. Now Tennessee medical malpractice attorneys note that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the damage amount. According to the appellate court, the damages were not excessive, considering the injuries to the plaintiff, her loss of income, and her pain and suffering.