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Medical negligence leads to $2.85 jury verdict

If a physician commits negligence by committing a breach a duty a care to a patient there may be serious and permanent consequences. For example, a jury in Horry County awarded $2.85 million to a patient and his wife after it found that an orthopedic surgeon in Myrtle Beach committed medical malpractice when his alleged actions led to his patient becoming a paraplegic. It is anticipated that this verdict will be among the top dozen lawsuit awards in South Carolina this year.

The jury, following a trial that ended on Sept. 13, found that this physician negligently ordered the plaintiff to be taken from the hospital's pre-operative area to a holding area for a CAT scan even though the patient's blood pressure and pulse were dangerously low. At the time, the patient was being treated following a car crash to stop bleeding in his arm. Although he was being prepared for surgery on his arm, the CAT scan was ordered for his knee which was also injured in the crash.

According to trial testimony, the 30-minute treatment delay caused by the CAT scan resulted in cardiac and respiratory arrest. Although an emergency room physician and anesthesiologist resuscitated the patient, the half hour interruption resulted in the death of some of his spinal cord and permanent paralysis from just above his waist down.

The jury awarded $2.3 million to the patient and $550,000 to his wife, who is also his caregiver. A confidential settlement was also entered with the hospital where these events occurred. The couple resides in Marion.

Settling or litigating cases involving surgical error and other malpractice is complex and often requires expertise. Plaintiffs have to prove that deviation from the standard of care led to the harm. Defendants may have different degrees and types of liability. Time periods also may limit when a legal malpractice action may commence.

Source: Myrtle Beach Online, "Jury awards 2.85 million in Myrtle Beach area medical malpractice suit," David Wren, Sept. 17, 2013

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