Philadelphia Jury Awards $44M Over Brain Damage Claims.
A Philadelphia jury has hit the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with a $44.1 million verdict for failing to recognize a woman’s adverse reaction to anti-coagulant medication before she suffered a brain hemorrhage.
The verdict in Tate v. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania came down Wednesday afternoon, with the jury finding the hospital 65 percent liable and an attending doctor 35 percent liable.
The Brain Damage Claims award is the highest verdict reported in Pennsylvania so far this year.
According to PaLaw magazine, the verdict also tops the highest medical malpractice verdict to come down last year, which was a nearly $22 million award out of Delaware County. The largest medical malpractice verdict in 2014 was a $55 million award from Lehigh County, according to the magazine.
According to Ross Feller Casey attorney Robert Ross, who handled the case on behalf of the plaintiff with Iddo Harel, the trial lasted for 13 days, and the jury deliberated for about seven hours over two days. Trial was held in front of Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson.
The trial, according to Ross, came down to the alleged failure of the hospital staff to recognize changes in plaintiff Andrea Tate’s blood after she was put on the anti-coagulant drug heparin. Ross said the changes should have been a clear warning that Tate was at a high risk for brain hemorrhage.
According to Tate’s pretrial memo, testing done to determine whether blood is becoming too thin was performed on Tate after she underwent a procedure to remove a benign tumor on tissue covering her brain. For six days, those test results showed Tate’s coagulation was moving from the low end of the normal spectrum to the high end, Ross said.
“Instead of stopping the heparin at that point, here’s what they did, they just stopped testing,” Ross said. “Three days later, they find her virtually comatose. She had a massive bleed in her head.”
A pretrial memo from the defendants, including the hospital and Dr. Maureen McCunn, the critical care attending doctor who treated Tate, contended that the dosing of heparin and blood monitoring were proper. The hemorrhage, the memo argued, was the result of complications due to Tate’s initial brain surgery.
Kathleen M. Kramer of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, who handled the case for the defendants, said on behalf of the hospital, “We are disappointed in today’s verdict, and continue to believe that appropriate medical care was provided; and we plan to appeal this unfortunate decision.”
According to court documents, Tate, who had been a project manager at a financial services company, went to the hospital in September 2011 to remove a mass in her head known as a meningioma. She was 57 at the time.
Although the plaintiff’s pretrial memo referred to the procedure as a “routine surgical resection,” the hospital’s pretrial memo said Tate underwent a craniotomy and resection, and the size and location of the mass “made it a particularly difficult and complicated procedure.”
The hospital’s memo said Tate had been having complications, including swelling, and an external ventricular drain was placed at the base of her head.
While at the neurological intensive care unit, Tate was given the heparin. Using an activated partial thromboplastin time (or aPTT) test, staff measured coagulation in Tate’s blood as it rose from 19 seconds to nearly 32 seconds, court papers said.
Testing then stopped for two days, until Tate sustained the brain hemorrhage, Tate’s memo said. When she was tested again, her aPTT level was 61, according to Tate’s memo.
Ross said Tate was on the path to have a good post-surgery recovery, and some swelling is normal after having a meningioma removed.
Ross also said that, although the hospital contended it did not need to test Tate’s coagulation levels, a treating doctor undercut that claim when he testified on cross-examination that testing was done because Tate was thought to be at a high risk for developing a bleed.
“If that’s why you’re doing [the tests], and you see them move, well, that’s not the time to stop testing,” Ross said.
The hospital’s memo, however, argued the injuries were the result of complications that were not related to the heparin.
According to the memo, Tate developed a fever after the surgery and was diagnosed with meningitis and ventriculitis. The memo also noted that several weeks after the initial craniotomy, Tate underwent a second craniotomy to drain abscess material.
The defense’s memo also said Tate was monitored closely by two physicians, and the coagulation levels were within the normal range.
According to Tate’s memo, the hemorrhage caused catastrophic brain injury, which left Tate unable to walk, feed herself, or use the toilet. The memo said she is essentially bedridden, and her husband, Dwight Tate, spends his days nursing her.
Ross also noted that the hemorrhage left Tate paralyzed in her left side and right leg.
According to Ross, the hospital’s final offer was $15 million, and Tate’s final demand was $31 million.
Harel also said an additional $3 million should be added to the award for delay damages.
-The Legal Intelligence
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