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Elizabeth Liss could only grimace at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas jury that awarded her more than $6.7 million in her medical malpractice action May 26. Liss, 45, suffers from severe facial ticks and swelling of her tongue and other facial muscles caused by a neurological syndrome known as tardive dyskinesia. Plaintiff’s counsel John Taulane III of Gilfillan Gilpin & Brehman in Jenkintown, Penn. and Baton Rouge, La.-based Daniel McGlynn of McGlynn & Glisson told the jury the syndrome was the result of the anti-psychotic medication prescribed by Dr. Jan Doeff to control Liss’ manic depression. The medication was unnecessary, and Doeff did not adequately monitor the treatment, plaintiff’s counsel argued. Doeff’s trial counsel, Jeffrey R. Lerman and Marianne Bechtle of Philadelphia-based Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, countered that the treatment was medically necessary and that the on-set of symptoms of tardive dyskinesia occurred suddenly at the end of the course of treatment. According to Taulane, a pre-verdict high-low agreement with the CAT Fund will shave $200,000 off of the $6,702,939 verdict, which included awards for past and future medical costs, past and future wage loss, loss of life’s pleasures and pain and suffering. Taulane said he plans to file a motion for delay damages. Liss, who emigrated to the United States from Costa Rica in 1991 to marry, sought care for her manic depression from Doeff in August 1992. In December 1995, Doeff prescribed a maintenance dose — a 15-month course of treatment — of Risperdal, a neuroleptic drug. Prior to the Risperdal prescription, Liss took lithium to control her condition. According to plaintiff’s counsel, Liss developed tardive dyskinesia, a potential but relatively rare side effect of neuroleptic drugs, during those 15 months. The early signs of the disease went unnoticed by Doeff, they argued, leaving Liss with permanent neurological damage. Taulane said that the fact witnesses — family and friends — who testified to the slow on-set of the condition were key to the plaintiff’s case. Taulane also presented a psychiatrist who explained the necessity of proper monitoring as an expert witness. Liss herself served as evidence of the severity of her condition during the week-long trial before Judge John Milton Younge. “One of the key points was when the plaintiff testified. [The jury] could see the grimacing; they could see the problem,” Taulane said. But attorney McGlynn’s participation in the case may have turned the tables in the trial, Taulane said. McGlynn has handled numerous tardive dyskinesia cases; Taulane found information about McGlynn’s experience while researching the disorder on the Internet. “He was invaluable,” Taulane said of his co-counsel. “He had an understanding of what the medicine did, of the disorder, and explained it in such terms that the jury could really latch on to the issue.”

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