Decade-long medical malpractice battle ends in $6.7 million award

Some Florida residents may have undergone a hernia operation and continued to live their lives with very few medical issues. An Alabama man was not so lucky. His Jan. 2002 hernia operation left him in intensive care for six months after a surgical error punctured his intestine. He and his wife fought a legal battle for a decade, but their patience finally paid off.

During the man’s four-hour operation, doctors punctured his small intestine but failed to repair it. The doctor knew that the intestine was punctured but did not feel it was deep enough to cause serious damage. The man’s health worsened immediately following the surgery, but the doctor did nothing until four days after the surgery. He found that the man had suffered an abdominal infection. Although the intestine was repaired that day, the infection had rapidly spread, resulting in a six-month stay in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

The medical malpractice suit contended that medical staff should have diagnosed the problem the same day as the surgery. The man suffered abdominal pains just hours after the procedure and by the next day, his temperature and pulse had risen. His white blood cell count had also dropped, all signs of an infection. By the following day, the man’s organs had begun to fail.

The man needed four more surgeries to remove the infection and he remained bedridden for so long that his legs became permanently bent. Even after more than two years of physical therapy, the man – now 69 years old – must rely on a wheelchair. He lost his job as a millworker, and his wife also had to leave her job to become his caretaker. A jury recently awarded the couple $6.7 million, with the man receiving $5.2 million and his wife receiving $1.5 million.

Although this seems like a huge award, the couple had to go through a lot to receive it. A majority of it will likely go to medical expenses and ongoing care for the man. Medical malpractice cases can be difficult to win, but the compensation can help pay for costly care following a doctor’s negligence.

SourceLedger-Enquirer, “Jury awards Alabama couple $6.7 million in malpractice suit” Tim Chitwood, Nov. 13, 2013