Maryland Jury Awards Over $950,000 to Family in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Aerial shotA jury in Harford County, Maryland awarded more than $958,000 to the family of a woman who died after receiving “excessive amounts” of pain medication during a hospital stay. The woman’s death, according to the lawsuit, resulted from the hospital providing hospice care rather than standard treatment for her condition. The family sought damages for actual costs and non-economic damages. The hospital’s breach of its duty to provide competent and professional medical care, the family claimed, caused the woman’s death.

The decedent, Beverly Ann Gargiulo, was admitted to Upper Chesapeake Health Center in February 2010, seeking treatment for ulcers that had reportedly become infected. The hospital allegedly told Gargiulo after her admission that she would need hospice care, despite there being no reason to conclude that she would not live “to an average female life expectancy.” Gargiulo reportedly received large amounts of narcotics, including morphine and oxycodone, “in increasing amounts and with increasing frequency.” The family claimed in their lawsuit that the amount and frequency of narcotics she received was appropriate to ease someone’s pain when they are about to die, rather than when someone is receiving treatment in preparation for discharge from the hospital. Gargiulo died on March 1, 2010.

Gargiulo’s family, including her husband and two children, filed suit against the hospital in December 2011. They asserted multiple causes of action for medical malpractice. In addition to claiming that the hospital committed malpractice by misdiagnosing her need for hospice care, the family claimed that the hospital performed unnecessary surgical procedures on her. They further alleged that she suffered severe pain before her death as a result of the hospital’s negligence, and sought $2 million in damages for both economic and non-economic damages.

A negligence claim requires proof of four elements: that the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party, that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach was the direct cause of the injury, and that the plaintiff suffered measurable damages as a result. Doctors and other medical professionals owe a particularly high duty of care to their patients, and in this case the erroneous provision of hospice care allegedly breached that duty. This breach, the plaintiffs claimed, caused Gargiulo’s death, and the plaintiffs suffered damages as a result. Damages included actual, or economic, damages, such as medical and funeral costs, and non-economic damages like emotional pain.

A jury awarded the family $958,258 on August 7, 2013, although different news sources have reported slightly different amounts. It found that the hospital was negligent in its treatment of Gargiulo, and that this negligence caused her death. The judgment amount consisted of $300,000 in non-economic damages to each of the plaintiffs, with the remainder accounting for economic damages.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt’s medical malpractice attorneys have represented Maryland patients and their familes for over twenty years, helping people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones because of medical negligence surgical errors, pharmacy misfills, and other breaches of a medical professional’s duty of care to a patient. They have obtained millions of dollars for our clients through verdicts and settlements, and we are committed to providing the people of Maryland and the DC area with quality legal representation. We can visit you at your home or in the hospital, and are available 24/7. For a free and confidential consultation, please contact us online, at (410) 567-0800 in Maryland, or at (888) 952-9669 in DC.

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