Florida Lawyer Pushes for “3 Strikes” Amendment

September 22, 2009

A rather interesting case came up recently in which a Florida medical attorney is challenging the court imposed limits on the “3 strikes and you’re out” amendment.  The amendment was enacted in 2004 in an attempt to protect the public from dangerous doctors; however there are currently limits which prevent some medical malpractice court cases from counting as strikes.

In short, the legislation would result in the revocation of any medical professional’s license found guilty of medical malpractice three times.  Not surprisingly, following the voting in of the amendment, the medical community was alarmed and fought back.  The amendment was then modified to indicate that only court cases and arbitration would count as a “strike” if they were upheld by the Board of Medicine.

Additionally, the amendment doesn’t take into account medical malpractice cases that are settled between the physician and the victim.  A doctor could essentially be involved in dozens of cases of medical negligence, but if they choose to settle, they have no bearing on the legislation.

Orlando medical lawyer Scott McMillen feels that this limitation renders the amendment virtually useless because it “takes away from citizens and courts the ultimate decision regarding what counts as a strike”.  He is fighting back for victims’ rights and is attempting to get judges to back him and send the case to the Florida Supreme Court.

McMillen’s tactic is to use a real-life example of a situation in which the “3 strikes” amendment could potentially have prevented a child’s foot from being amputated, had it worked in the way in which he feels it was meant to.  Loopholes in the legislation allowed Dr. Oludapo Soremi to perform surgery on 9 year old Thomas Burn’s ankle.  Just weeks later the boy’s foot had to be amputated due to medical negligence.

The case itself is compelling, and deserves support from anyone who will require medical treatment in the future and it will be interesting to see how it pans out.  Further information will be reported here when it becomes available.

Indiana Widower to Challenge Damages Cap

September 18, 2009

The Indiana state law that places a cap on medical malpractice damages is about to be challenged by a man who lost his wife due to medical negligence.

The husband of Debbie Plank, the 47 year old mother of three, sued Community Hospital North after the hospital failed to deliver an X-ray to doctors in a timely manner.  The X-ray revealed that Plank had a dangerous bowel obstruction and the delay in delivery subsequently delayed the emergency surgery which could have saved her life.  Instead, Plank slipped into a coma and died.

The jury ruled in favor of Plank’s widower, awarding him a settlement of $8.5 million.  The state damages cap, however, reduced the award to $1.25 million, the maximum allowed under the law.  Plank’s husband, Tim, isn’t satisfied and is planning to challenge the law.

It’s not so much about the money, according to Plank.  It’s about the lack of apology and accountability on the part of the hospital that caused Tim Plank to sue in the first place.  But he also feels that the state should not place a lower value on the life of his wife, who died solely as a result of a medical error.

Plank plans to place the bulk of whatever he is awarded, be it the full $8.5 million, or the reduced amount, into a foundation in his wife’s name which will used to award scholarships to local students.

Further information will be reported here as it becomes available.

Dental Malpractice Results in $2 Million Verdict

August 31, 2009

A jury in South Carolina has returned a hefty verdict in the dental malpractice case of 28 year old Elizabeth Smith, whose dentist mistakenly pulled 13 extra teeth from her upper jaw.
In a case of shocking negligence, Ms. Smith sought treatment at the Sexton Dental Clinic for a cracked tooth.  It was determined that she would need to have three teeth removed to correct the problem.  For some reason, however, the dentist who performed the procedure instead pulled all 16 of Smith’s upper teeth leaving her horribly damaged.
In addition to the physical damages the plaintiff suffered, her lawsuit also claimed that after the botched procedure, her dentist then falsified her records in an attempt to cover up what had happened.
Ms. Smith was clearly the victim of gross negligence and the jury agreed, awarding her $2 million in compensation.
Malpractice comes in many forms, including that which occurs in dental care.  Just like medical doctors, dentists have the duty to provide their patients with quality care.  If you have had a bad experience with a dentist that resulted in your suffering injury or harm, speak to a medical attorney to find out if you’ve been a victim of dental malpractice and what your rights are.

Source:  www.justicenewsflash.com

Another Example of Why the Feres Doctrine Needs Reform

August 20, 2009

It’s been discussed before that the U.S. government’s Feres Doctrine, which prevents members of the military from suing the government for medical malpractice, is outdated and unjust. Yet another case has surfaced which demands that something be done so that justice can be pursued for the men and women who serve this country.

Case in point:

On July 9th, 20 year old airman Colton Read was admitted to David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base to undergo what should have been a routine laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. What happened, however, was anything but routine.

During the surgery, Read’s aortic artery was punctured causing a prolonged and substantial blood loss. As a result, the muscles and tissue in Read’s legs began to die. Doctor’s were forced to amputate both of his legs in order to save his life.

The once vibrant, strong and skilled Air Force recruit is now permanently maimed by the very institution that Read loved so much and devoted his life to. He will likely never be able to walk again.

The injustice of it all is that Read has no recourse for what he’s suffered. In 1950, the Supreme Court passed the Feres Doctrine and although there have been many attempts since to overturn it and allow service members the same rights as everyday citizens, none have been successful.

For now, there is nothing Read can do but wait and hope that one day he will have the chance to be compensated for his injuries, pain and suffering. Until then, there will be no medical malpractice claim filed in a case of blatant negligence.

It is yet another eye opening case that shows how desperately we need reform in this country.

Paralyzed Man Awarded $19.2 Million in Negligence Claim

August 16, 2009

New York resident Wilfredo Figueroa was awarded nearly twenty million dollars in his medical negligence case after a Bronx hospital staff’s delayed diagnosis left him permanently paralyzed.

In September 2004, Figueroa was admitted to Montefiore Medical Center complaining of severe pain in his back. Despite his complaints, however, hospital staff failed to order a CAT scan or MRI until two weeks after he was admitted. It was then discovered that the source of Figueroa’s pain was a spinal abscess, but by then it was already too late.

A neurosurgeon attempted to reverse some of the extensive damage that the spinal cord infection had caused, but nothing could be done for him. He ended up paralyzed from the chest down.

Sadly, since being released from the hospital five years ago, 58 year old Figueroa, the father of three, has had to live in a nursing facility because the home that he shared with his wife was not wheelchair accessible. He is grateful that the jury found in his favor so that he can renovate his home and move back in with his family.

It is situations like this that illustrate just how devastating a missed diagnosis can be. Had the hospital staff ordered the appropriate tests right away, Figueroa’s illness could have been detected and doctors could likely have intervened to limit the damages he suffered. Instead he is left to face a lifetime confined to a wheelchair.

If you or someone you know has suffered injury due to a doctor’s negligence you are strongly advised to talk to a medical attorney right away.

Georgia Supreme Court Reverses Medical Malpractice Decision

August 13, 2009

An interesting turn of events has occurred in the medical malpractice lawsuit brought by Georgia couple Clay and Tracy Smith.  They were previously unsuccessful in proving their claim, and that verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeals.  Recently, however, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed this decision and breathed new life into the case.

According to their claim, in the summer of 2003 the Smith’s son found a tick on his leg and shortly thereafter he began experiencing fever, vomiting and severe headaches.  The Smiths brought their son to two pediatricians, both of whom diagnosed the child with a viral infection.  When his condition failed to improve, they then took him to the emergency room and another pediatrician, and were given the same diagnosis of a viral illness.

Their child’s health continued to deteriorate, however, and he eventually ended up at the Egleston Children’s Hospital where he finally received an accurate diagnosis.  He was suffering from a condition known as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and he was finally treated properly for the illness.

The Smiths brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against all the parties involved in their son’s misdiagnosis.  During the trial, the jury was instructed to follow the pattern “hindsight instruction”, which states the following:

“In a medical malpractice action, a defendant cannot be found negligent on the basis of an assessment of a patient’s condition that only later, in hindsight, proves to be incorrect as long as the initial assessment was made in accordance with reasonable standards of medical care. In other words, the concept of negligence does not include hindsight. Negligence consists of not foreseeing and guarding against that which is probable and likely to happen, not against that which is only remotely and slightly possible.”

Based on these instructions, specifically the part that states that the illness Smith suffered from would have to have been considered “probable and likely to happen”, the jury ruled in favor of the physicians.  The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.

The Smiths, however, refused to give up in their pursuit of justice for their son.  They turned to the Georgia Supreme Court for help.  The decision was reversed because the Supreme Court took issue with the very phrase that had caused the jury to arrive at their original verdict: that medical malpractice could only be proven if the illness or diagnosis was “probable and likely to happen”.

The reversal hinged on the fact that when doctors examine a patient, they are supposed to use a process referred to as differential diagnosis; in other words, a process of elimination.  Proper medical standard of care dictates that physicians must consider all possible causes of a patient’s condition or symptoms, including things that may be rare, before arriving at a final diagnosis.  The Court ruled that the hindsight jury instruction was inaccurate and resulted in an unfair verdict.

Once again, there are lessons to be learned from this situation, including the importance of seeking second, third, fourth or as many opinions as it takes to reach the right diagnosis.  Additionally, this case serves to remind victims of medical negligence never to give up in their pursuit of justice.

Another Case of Mass Medical Malpractice?

August 7, 2009

A West Virginia health clinic has sent letters to over a hundred patients informing them that they may have been exposed to infectious diseases due to unsafe injection practices.  It has the potential of becoming another disturbing case of mass medical malpractice.

An investigation of the clinic found that one of the doctors on staff there was not following proper protocol when giving injections to patients, reporting the situation as a “significant infection control breach”.  The doctor’s name has not been revealed as of yet.

The investigation was prompted when six patients of the clinic came down with staphylococcus infections.  Two additional patients have also been diagnosed with the infection, though all have recovered.

The patients are by no means out of the woods, however.  Chief health officer for the health department, Dr. Rahul Gupta, said there is a chance that patients may have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis, all due to the improper injection techniques employed at the clinic.

It is now a waiting game to see if there are any further cases of staph infection, or more serious diagnoses as mentioned above.  If there are, surely there will be further reports here about the ensuing medical malpractice lawsuits that will likely be filed.

When a patient goes to a hospital, doctors office or health clinic, they expect that they will receive proper, adequate health care.  When a doctor or other medical professional breaches this expectation, the potential for medical malpractice greatly increases.  If you think you might be a victim of medical negligence, you should contact a medical attorney to discuss your rights.

Source:   http://sundaygazettemail.com

Neurology Malpractice

August 4, 2009

The practice of neurology is arguably one of the most complex and intricate of all medical practices because it involves the study of the nervous system, brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles.  The diseases, disorders and treatments that neurologists deal with involve such core functions as memory, speech, balance and movement.  It goes without saying, therefore, that neurology malpractice can have some of the most devastating results of any other type of medical negligence.

Neurologists typically use testing such as CAT scans, MRI/MRA’s, EEG’s and other highly technical equipment to investigate and diagnose neurological disorders.   When an abnormality or disorder is not properly detected, either due to negligence or poor training, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Some of the more common types of neurology malpractice involve:

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure to properly interpret test results
  • Failure to order appropriate testing

Victims of neurology malpractice can consequently end up suffering from undiagnosed:

  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer/Tumor
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Neurological disorders

Any of these can lead to further illness, injury or death.  Those who survive such an incident may be left with permanent injury and a lifetime pain and suffering.  Medical lawyers skilled in neurology malpractice claims know what to do to get justice for their clients, and awards for this type of malpractice are generally much higher than those in other negligence claims.  If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of a neurologist’s error, speak with an attorney right away.

Negligent Medical Technician Exposed Thousands to Hep C

July 20, 2009

In an act of gross medical negligence, a 26 medical technician who was addicted to pain killers was found to have been swapping clean syringes filled with Fentanyl with dirty ones she’d already used, filled with saline solution.

Blood tests have been offered to former patients of a Denver medical facility after it was discovered that thousands had potentially been exposed to hepatitis C because the technician, Kristen Diane Parker, who had used the needles, has the disease.

So far, at least nine of the patients exposed have tested positive for Hep C.

Perhaps the most egregious part of the case is the fact that Parker, a trained medical professional, knew she had the disease and that her actions were placing thousands of innocent patients in risk of contracting it too.

Not only will Parker likely be facing multiple medical malpractice claims, she is also being charged criminally.  She is currently in federal custody and could face up to twenty years in prison for what she’s done.  Additionally, if any of the infected patients subsequently dies as a result of her negligence, she could be put away for life.

Source:   www.themoneytimes.com

Victory in Radiology Malpractice Case for Michigan Woman

July 18, 2009

After years of delays in her radiology malpractice case, Sue Apsey has finally won her claim when a jury awarded her nearly $3 million.

Apsey’s claim against Shiawassee Radiology Consultants and Dr. James Deering alleged that during an operation in January 2000 to remove a cyst from her ovary, the radiologists failed to notice that she had a dangerous bowel leak.

Further complicating the situation, Apsey was given barium, a potentially toxic heavy metal, to help with imaging.  Because there was an undiagnosed leak in her bowel, the barium leaked into her intestines and caused what is known as chemical peritonitis, a dangerous infection.  Apsey was forced to go several surgeries as a result.

Ms. Apsey originally filed her case in 2000, however it was delayed for years while it went through several appeals.  Finally, a jury found in Apsey’s favor, holding Shiawassee Radiology guilty of medical negligence and awarding her $2.978 million.  Unfortunately, malpractice caps in the state of Michigan will reduce the verdict significantly.

This case is a perfect example of how lengthy medical malpractice cases can sometimes be.  It’s important to know this before you decide to pursue a lawsuit, so you are not disappointed or frustrated with how long it can take.  If you find that you have been a victim, seek consultation with a medical attorney right away, and don’t give up.  Like Ms. Apsey, you might find yourself victorious in the end, even if it takes a while.


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