$10 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict for Spinal Cord Injury
A Cook County Illinois jury returned a medical malpractice verdict in excess of $10 million in favor of a young man who was left a quadriplegic by the negligence of the doctors and hospital where he was treated. The verdict was one of the ten largest medical malpractice verdicts in the history of Illinois at the time it was rendered. The victim was represented by Corboy & Demetrio.
On July 17, 1992, a 28 year-old man was admitted to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. At the time, he was single, and unemployed. Following a car accident on Interstate 294, he was taken by the Des Plaines Fire Department paramedics to Lutheran General Hospital. His cervical spine was immobilized with a hard collar by paramedics. The spine was kept immobilized unit after a CT Scan of the cervical area was performed. Although the CT Scan revealed a potentially unstable cervical spine, the trauma surgeon and neurosurgeon failed to appreciate the severity of the injury. Believing the cervical spine was stable, the trauma surgeon removed the immobilization device, and placed a soft cervical collar on the patient. The soft cervical collar does not provide adequate immobilization to protect the spinal cord.
On July 19, 1992, two days following his admission, the nursing staff removed the soft cervical collar and allowed the patient to be transferred to a new bed and to be moved within the bed. The increased movement resulted in a direct injury to the spinal cord and left the young man a quadriplegic. On the afternoon of July 19, he lost movement in his legs and developed extensive weakness in his arms. Emergency surgery was done that evening to decompress the spinal cord and to fuse the cervical spine.
Medical Malpractice Trial
At trial, the defendants contested the issues of liability, causation and damages. The defendants offered expert testimony that the injury to the spinal cord was caused by an unpreventable ischemic stroke. Also, the defense offered two expert witnesses to demonstrate that the patient had a life expectancy of only 15 years. A defense economist also testified as to the present cash value of the future medical expenses.
The case was tried before Judge Edward Burr of the Circuit Court of Cook County and lasted six weeks. Forty witnesses testified and 240 exhibits were presented by the plaintiff's attorney.
Medical Malpractice Verdict
The young man now lives with his sister and brother-in-law and is dependent upon them for all activities of his daily life. The $10,056,500 verdict will allow him to provide for his own medical care and to take greater control of his life.