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A Chicago jury has awarded $40.44 million to a 54-year-old woman who sustained massive permanent brain damage during a routine diagnostic procedure and has additionally ordered the defendants to pay $15 million to the woman’s husband on his loss-of-consortium claim. The jury’s award to Anna Mederos and the consortium judgment to her husband, Eusebio Mederos, were both records for the state of Illinois, said plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph A. Power Jr., of Chicago’s Power, Rogers & Smith. Mederos, a nursing home worker, was admitted to Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center in Chicago in April 1995 with pneumonia. Her condition was improving when lung specialist Dr. James Gallai performed a bronchoscopy to check for tuberculosis, said Power. Ten minutes into the procedure, Gallai “nicked an artery.” MASSIVE BRAIN DAMAGE Mederos’ breathing had already been compromised by the pneumonia, the blockage of one nostril by the bronchoscopy tube and anesthesia given before the procedure, Power said. Massive bleeding into her lungs caused further problems. Within moments, her oxygen saturation rate dropped to 55 percent from 99 percent, Power said. This drop required immediate intubation to deliver oxygen to Mederos, he said. An anesthesiologist, Dr. Donald Vidger, “was called to evaluate the patient for possible intubation,” Power added. But, he charged, Vidger did nothing and left even though the oxygen saturation rate was at 55 percent. After the bronchoscopy was completed, Mederos went into cardiac arrest. A nurse anesthetist intubated the patient, raising the saturation rate to 96 percent, Power said. But by then, a loss of oxygen to the brain had caused massive brain damage, Power reported. Mederos’ husband sued Vidger, Sunnyside Anesthesia Associates, Gallai and Ravenswood, charging negligence. Mederos v. Advocate Health Care Network d/b/a Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center, No. 96 L 5661 (Cir. Ct., Cook Co., Ill.). Before trial, Ravenswood, Gallai and Sunnyside offered to settle for $13.5 million. That was rejected, said Power. During trial, Gallai and the hospital admitted liability and suggested to the jury that $8 million would be proper compensation, said Ravenswood defense attorney William Johnson, of Chicago’s Johnson & Bell. Vidger contested liability and never made any offers to settle. During trial, he contended that he had not been called in to evaluate the patient for intubation, but to provide a tube. “He said he came to the door and was told he was not needed,” said Power. “The nurse and Dr. Gallai disputed this.” The Chicago jury found against all the defendants. The huge loss-of-consortium award was due in large part to a calculated risk taken by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said Power. The plaintiffs’ team had prepared a day-in-the-life video of Anna Mederos, but decided not to use the video in their case-in-chief, said Power, in order to avoid charges of inflaming the passions of the jurors. “We reserved the right to use it if the defense opened the door,” he said. A major portion of the defense was that Mederos was in a persistent vegetative state, he said. She did not deserve damages for pain and suffering, for instance, because she was so disabled, “she couldn’t feel pain, she couldn’t understand a joke,” Power added. The defendants’ neurologist, Dr. Sandra Olson, testified to this contention and, he said, “It opened the door for us.” The plaintiffs played the video during their rebuttal. “The film clearly showed that she understood what was going on and that she did feel pain,” Power said. The video was a significant reason that Mederos received $12 million for pain and suffering and her husband got $15 million for loss of consortium, he added. Johnson, however, considers the verdict simply indicative of a “plaintiffs’ jury. This was a shocking amount of money.” An appeal is expected.

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