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Brain-damaged woman awarded $120 million

Last week, a New York jury awarded $120 million to a 45-year-old woman who suffered severe brain-damage after a series of city hospital visits in 2004. Her incapacitation was the direct result of mismanagement of her care and all three hospitals were found liable for medical malpractice.

The woman sought treatment after she suffered a seizure. According to the complaint, medical personnel mismanaged the victim's medications, failed to respond to crises and did not provide essential treatments, which could have prevented the permanent brain-damage. In reaction to anti-seizure medication, the woman developed severe allergic reactions, including swelling in the face, eyes and throat. Later she was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and severe skin disorder.

The decision held two city hospitals accountable for 90% of the injury, allocating 5% of the responsibility to another hospital and 4% to its neurologists. The jury award was the largest ever issued in the state and the city plans to appeal the decision. While defendants offered sympathy to the victim and the family, they did not believe that the jury award was consistent with the "facts and the law."

The victim was a medical claims adjuster who earned $40,000 year. In these cases the jury will assess the economic losses caused by the damage, including $10 million for lost earnings during her lifetime, and previously incurred medical costs of $583,000. The defendants, as well as some analysts, believe that the jury verdict is excessive though others argue it is consistent with the pain and suffering caused to the family and the victim for their personal and economic losses.

Source: The New York Times, "Brain-Damaged Woman Wins Suit Against City Hospitals," Matt Flegenheimer, May 25, 2012.