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Botched intubation leads to $10.97M jury verdict Case Type: Medical malpractice Case: Evans v. EHS Christ Hospital Medical Center, No. 94-L-13480 (Cir. Ct., Cook Co., Ill.) Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Thomas M. Harris, of Chicago’s Jerome Mirza and Associates. Defense Attorney: Rudolph G. Schade Jr., of Chicago’s Cassiday, Schade and Gloor jury verdict: $10.97 million On Oct. 25, 1992, Arthur Evans, then 50, was performing volunteer work at his church when he fell from scaffolding and sustained a bruised lung. Evans was brought to the intensive care unit of Chicago’s Christ Hospital, where he was intubated and placed on a ventilator, said his attorney, Thomas M. Harris. He was weaned off the ventilator and later was transferred to a regular hospital room, Harris said. But Evans began to experience respiratory problems because of fluid building up in his lungs, and it was determined that he should be re-intubated and put back on a ventilator, Harris added. Dr. Richard Gonzalez, the trauma surgeon, and an intern acting under the supervision of Gonzalez attempted to intubate Evans, the attorney continued. But the sedative he had received before the procedure began had caused Evans to clench his teeth. “This made it more difficult to deliver oxygen,” Harris said. The sedative also “had the effect of reducing Evans’ respiratory drive, which further depleted his oxygen reserves.” Gonzalez gave Evans succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant, in order to open the patient’s mouth, then directed the intern to make the first intubation attempt. This first attempt failed, as did a second, Harris said: “During this time, Evans was slowly suffocating.” An anesthesiologist was called in for assistance, and the tube was placed in Mr. Evans, but initially, the attorney said, the tube may have been inserted into the esophagus instead of the trachea, “so it was withdrawn and re-inserted into the trachea. He was successfully oxygenated at that point, but by then brain damage had already occurred.” Evans, a former auto repair worker, is now in a “persistent vegetative state. His eyes are open but there is no purposeful movement,” said Harris. Evans’ family, on his behalf, sued the hospital, Gonzalez, the anesthesiologist and the church where the accident occurred. The church settled before trial, and the case against the anesthesiologist was dismissed, Harris reported. The remaining defendants contended that Evans’ problems were caused by the anesthesiologist’s intubating into the patient’s esophagus. The defense also contested the damages claimed by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs’ expert contended that Evans’ likely life expectancy was more than 17 years; the defense expert estimated that he would die within three years. On April 10, a Chicago jury found the hospital and Gonzalez negligent, awarding $10.97 million. Before closing arguments were delivered, the parties entered into a high-low agreement, guaranteeing the plaintiff a minimum of $3 million and capping damages at $13 million, Harris said. The lawsuit was settled right after trial for $10.97 million in cash. N.Y. jury awards $10M to child for rapid-birth injury Case Type: Medical malpractice Case: Lara v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., No. 111751/95 (Sup. Ct., New York) Plaintiff’s Attorney: Judith A. Livingston, of New York’s Kramer, Dillof, Tessel, Duffy & Moore Defense Attorneys: Brendan Lantier, of New York’s McAloon & Friedman. Jury Verdict: $10 million When Maria Lara went to New York’s Metropolitan Hospital on Feb. 22, 1990, for the birth of her fourth child, she was told to go home because she was not ready to deliver. Lara came back twice more in the next few hours and was rebuffed both times, according to her attorney, Judith A. Livingston. When Lara returned to Metropolitan six hours after her first visit to the hospital, labor had progressed so far that the baby was delivered within minutes, while the mother was being examined. The child, Brevenick Lara, did not show any signs of problems initially, but by the age of 5 months, a checkup determined that he had developmental delays. Lara, on her son’s behalf, sued the New York Health and Hospitals Corp., charging that these delays and her son’s ultimately diagnosed cerebral palsy were caused by the rapid delivery. The plaintiff contended that the delivery was traumatic and caused bleeding in the brain and subsequent brain damage. This damage would not have occurred, Livingston said, if Lara had been admitted to the hospital sooner, if she. had been monitored and if the boy had been delivered in a controlled fashion. “This was a very easy birth,” countered defense counsel Brendan Lantier. “The child couldn’t have been in better shape after birth. Not a single problem was noted.” The boy was also “in perfect shape” at his 1-month and 2-month well-baby visits, he added. The mother then skipped the next few checkups, he said, and at the age of 5 1/2 months, “this was the first time the problems were noticed.” These problems, he said, “could not possibly have been related to birth.” The delivery, Lantier said, was rapid, but not unusually so. But, on April 19, a New York jury ordered the city hospital system to pay Brevenick Lara $10 million. During the trial, the defense moved to strike as junk science the testimony of the plaintiff’s neurologist that the baby’s brain bled because of a quick change in cranial pressure during the rapid delivery, said Lantier. This motion, and a motion that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a finding of liability, are pending.

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