Last week a Philadelphia jury returned a $44.1 million medical malpractice award against the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The case, styled,Tate v. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, involved the hospital’s failure to recognize a reaction a patient was having to Heparin, a medication administered after surgery. The Legal Intelligencer reports that this is the highest Pennsylvania verdict for the year to date and that the jury held the hospital 65% responsible and the attending physician 35% responsible.
Robert Ross, of Ross, Feller, Casey in Philadelphia represented plaintiff Andrea Tate in the trial and secured the record verdict. The case hinged on whether coagulation in Tate’s blood provided a clear warning that she was in danger of brain hemorrhage. The doctor and hospital argued that the hemorrhaging and brain damage that eventually occurred resulted from the brain surgery she’d experienced before receiving Heparin. They plan to appeal.
The two parties presented a vastly different account of what happened. However, it is clear that post-surgery Tate received Heparin, that tests showed increased coagulation which put her at risk for hemorrhage, that tests were inexplicably discontinued, and that two days later she did indeed suffer massive inter-cranial bleeding which left her bedridden, partially paralyzed, and unable to take care of herself.
This case didn’t have to go to trial. Ross reported that the hospital had offered to pay $15 million while Tate had sought $31 million before trial. Instead, the hospital rolled the dice and was slapped with a verdict almost 50% higher than Tate had asked for. The Tate case illustrates the need for trial attorneys and the valuable service they can provide to the injured, on a contingency fee basis.
On the heels of this verdict comes a Johns Hopkins study which shows that medical malpractice is far from rare. The study found that medical errors are now the third leading cause of deaths in the United States. Transparency and publicizing of mistakes must occur before the situation will improve.