A Missouri jury awarded close to $29 million this week to a then-college athlete whose rare genetic disorder went undiagnosed beginning in 2012, leaving her with devastating injuries. The woman, who now is 24 years old, alleged that she went to her doctor in 2012 with complaints of fatigue, tremors, gait issues, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, crying spells and panic attacks. Her doctor diagnosed her with anxiety and declined to prescribe any diagnostic testing. Eight months later, after her symptoms worsened, the woman and her mother implored the doctor for more testing. An MRI of her brain demonstrated that the woman was suffering from Wilson’s disease.
Wilson’s disease is a rare, hereditary disorder that causes excess amounts of copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs. Copper in the body contributes to, among other things, development of healthy nerves and bones. Normally, it is absorbed from the food that you eat and any excess is excreted through the bile that is produced in the liver. However, people with Wilson’s disease do not excrete the copper properly, causing it to accumulate in the body. If it is diagnosed early, the disease usually can be managed well, resulting in a largely normal life.
As a result of the delay in the diagnoses in this particular case, the woman suffered catastrophic and permanent brain damage and now gets her nutrition through a feeding tube. The jury’s award included 21 million for future medical expenses and other care costs, $3.2 million for future economic damages such as lost wages, and $3.2 million for future non-economic damages for her pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.