California Appeals Court Affirms Jury Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case
In a recent case, a California Appeals Court recently affirmed a jury verdict that awarded damages to several family members of a woman who died from complications of thyroid surgery. In 2008, the woman underwent thyroid surgery at the defendant’s medical center. She was accompanied to the surgery by her daughter and sister. While in recovery after the surgery, the woman’s daughter and sister noticed that she was struggling to breathe properly, and they notified the appropriate hospital staff. Several efforts were then made to improve her breathing.
Both family members were present when the doctor who performed the surgery arrived in the victim’s recovery room. As he began to examine the site of the surgery, the woman stopped breathing. Her arm went up, and her eyes rolled back in her head. The doctor then called a code blue, which summoned additional medical personnel to the room.
After the code blue was called, the woman’s sister left the room on her own. She then returned to the room to help the woman’s daughter, who had frozen in all of the commotion. While all of this was going on, both family members felt that the medical staff was not responding to the woman’s condition with sufficient urgency, despite their repeated requests after the surgery to get help for her breathing problem.
As a result of being unable to breathe for several minutes, the woman suffered permanent brain damage. She died less than two weeks later.
Medical Malpractice and the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
A jury awarded the victim’s two daughters damages for their mother’s wrongful death. The jury agreed with the daughters that the medical center committed medical malpractice — or negligence — by failing to respond to their mother’s post-surgery breathing problems with adequate skill or urgency, and that this negligence caused the death of their mother.
Under the law, family members may be able to recover damages if they can prove that a medical provider owed their loved one a duty of care, and that the medical provider breached this duty by failing to use such skill, prudence, and diligence as other members of the profession provide. Family members must also prove that this breach directly caused the death of their loved one.
Certain family members may also be able to recover damages for what is called Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED). To prove NIED, a close family member must prove that he or she suffered serious emotional distress by witnessing a medical provider’s failure to provide reasonable medical care to their loved one. In this case, the victim’s daughter and sister recovered damages because they were present for the medical provider’s failure to properly care for their family member, and because they knew it was causing her direct harm at the time. As the victim’s sister then testified, she “went to pieces” when her sister died.
Have You or a Family Member Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you believe that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, or that a family member died because of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation. You may also be entitled to compensation if you witnessed a medical provider’s failure to provide adequate medical care to a loved one, if you experienced emotional problems as a result. To speak with an experienced and accomplished attorney about any of these issues, contact the law firm of Wais, Vogelstein, Forman, Koch & Norman for a free consultation at (410) 567-0800. Our lawyers have the compassion to work with those who have suffered due to medical negligence and the know-how to get you the results you deserve.