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A record $55 million medical malpractice jury verdict was awarded in Chicago late last Friday to a woman who suffered permanent brain damage when she was not immediately given oxygen after bleeding developed in a lung during an intrusive examination of her lungs. Since the hospital and one co-defendant had admitted liability, the jury heard only evidence on the liability of one other co-defendant and the damages to be paid by all the defendants. Anna Mederos, now 59, was undergoing a bronchoscopy examination in 1995 at Chicago’s Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center when she developed bleeding in the lung. A delay in giving her oxygen allegedly caused Mederos to stop breathing. And she suffered a heart attack that led to the irreversible brain damage. “We knew the damages would be substantial because of how she was injured,” said Larry R. Rogers Sr., of Power, Rogers & Smith. “If any family deserved this, it was this family. They have taken very good care of her.” Also representing the plaintiff was Joseph Power Jr., another name partner in the Chicago firm. William V. Johnson, the attorney who represented the hospital, said he, too, expected the damages to be substantial. But, he insisted he was still surprised by the amount the jury awarded. “I think it was excessive,” said Johnson, a name partner in Chicago’s Johnson & Bell. “We admitted liability. If each of these types of cases is worth that, where does it stop? You might as well close down the hospitals. “They cut in half what had been asked for,” Johnson added. “This was a jury without guidelines trying to determine what is fair in a catastrophic injury case.” The last settlement offer made in the case was $13.5 million, both Rogers and Johnson said. The abbreviated trial before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Dooling actually lasted two weeks. In addition to the Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center, co-defendants Dr. Donald L. Vidger, an anesthesiologist, and Dr. Jamed B. Gallai, a specialist in pulmonary diseases were also found liable for damages. Rogers said a key to the plaintiff’s successful case was bringing Mederos into the courtroom to introduce her to the jury and have her examined by a neurologist. Also important, he said, was the showing of videotape in which Mederos laughs at jokes told by her husband and cries out when he leaves the room. “An issue was whether she was aware of her surroundings and the video clearly showed that she was,” Rogers said. Timothy G. Nickels, of Chicago’s Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, represented Vidger; and Thomas R. Hill, of the city’s Rooks, Pitt & Poust, represented Gallai.

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