$135 million is the final jury award for a 17-year-old girl who was left partially paralyzed at the age of 10 after undergoing a scoliosis surgery, the Detroit News reports. After two weeks of trial, a jury in Wayne County, Michigan returned the verdict, believed to be the largest medical malpractice judgment in American history, against Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the region’s biggest hospital.
Girl Left Paralyzed After Scoliosis Surgery
The plaintiff suffered severe injuries, jurors concluded, at the hands of her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Eric Jones, who had committed medical negligence in performing a 2011 growing rod implantation procedure.
At trial, jurors heard that the girl, then 10-years-old, had been admitted to Detroit Medical Center to undergo a surgical operation for scoliosis, a congenital curvature of the spine. The idea behind the procedure was to implant a metal rod on either side of the patient’s spine. The rods, which can be lengthened at intervals through additional procedures, are meant to hold the spine straight so it can grow properly along with the patient’s body.
But the girl’s attorney says that her surgeon implanted the rods incorrectly; instead of straightening her spine, the implants compressed her spinal cord, leaving her arms and legs numb. She also lost control of her bladder and bowels.
Surgeon Left For 2 Vacations During Patient’s “Recovery”
Then her surgeon left, the lawyer claims, saying the surgeon went on vacation twice as the girl became paralyzed. “The patient needs to have screws and hooks and bars taken out immediately,” the plaintiff’s attorney said. “Instead – he left; he abandoned her.” Ultimately, another doctor noticed the problem and removed the rods ten days after their initial implantation, but the damage had already been done.
In a statement, the plaintiff’s attorney wrote, “Instead of relieving the compression of her spinal cord, [the plaintiff’s] doctor went on vacation two times, and left her alone lying paralyzed, and incontinent of bowel and bladder for 10 days until another doctor recognized her serious condition and took out all of the hardware which was causing her paralysis.” She became a quadriplegic, spending a year in a wheelchair.
Detroit Medical Center Tries Unsuccessful Defense
At trial, defense attorneys for Detroit Medical Center argued that the plaintiff’s injuries could never have been prevented. They pinned the blame on a blood clot that developed after surgery, but the plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney says that there’s no MRI or other evidence to support the defense’s claim. “They literally made this up to go trial,” the lawyer told Fox 2 Detroit.
While the girl’s legal team is pleased for the family’s success at trial, their victory doesn’t quite feel like a win. “She’ll have enough money to get her catheter changed for her life,” but “that’s it,” the attorney said. “It is going to be difficult but it will make it a little bit easier.”