Two malpractice verdicts in two days in Pennsylvania town

Juries in Erie, Pa., last week returned substantial – and in the first case, record – verdicts on consecutive days in favor of the plaintiffs in two malpractices cases. One day after a jury gave $21.6 million – the largest malpractice verdict in the county’s history – to an Erie mother and her son over his botched delivery in 2006, another jury at the same courthouse returned a $1.8 million verdict in favor of the estate of a woman who died of lung cancer at age 66 in April 2005.

The first case began in 2006, when a mother went to the then Hamot Medical Center to have fraternal twins. The daughter was born normal but the son had severe brain damage. The jury agreed with the boy’s mother that the hospital’s nursing staff was unprepared for complications arising from a breach birth and didn’t do enough to prevent oxygen deprivation that left the boy unable to speak and requiring feeding through a tube.

The verdict includes $19.6 million to provide for the boy’s future medical expenses. The rest covers past medical expenses and the boy’s lost lifetime earning capacity. The hospital’s attorney declined to comment on the verdict or whether the hospital will appeal.

The next day, a second jury determined that physicians treating Carolyn Champlin failed to properly diagnose and treat her lung cancer and returned a $1.8 million verdict. Champlin died in April 2005.

Her estate maintained that physicians in Erie and Kane failed to properly diagnose and treat the cancer. Champlin had received chest X-rays at Hamot and two other hospitals between 1998 and 2003. One of the plaintiff’s lawyers said after the verdict that the evidence showed Champlin had cancer in 2000, but was not properly diagnosed for 3 years. During that time, the lung cancer went from operable and curable to inoperable and incurable.

The jury agreed and found the two physicians negligent – her longtime primary-care doctor and a thoracic surgeon to whom she was referred. The estate settled with the surgeon before the trial ended. As a result, the jury verdict of $1,821,529 was reduced by 40% (the amount of the negligence attributed to the surgeon).
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Source: Erie Times-News and WICU-12

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