A woman in Pennsylvania was recently awarded one of the highest sums ever recorded in a medical malpractice suit after an infection went unnoticed and nearly killed her. The lawsuit was based upon medical negligence and medical errors committed by a home nurse that was treating the woman, who was suffering from Crohn’s disease. The woman was receiving care from a home nurse when the R.N. failed to recognize that she had an infected catheter. As a result of the nurse failing to refer the patient to a physician to treat the infected catheter, both of the woman’s legs were amputated below the knee. This was a result of the infection spreading to the bloodstream. A copy of the article regarding the award can be found here.
The jury in this case awarded the woman $23.12 million after hearing about the failure of the nurse to treat the bacteria-infected catheter and found both the nurse and the employer negligent. The damages were based on compensatory awards of economic damages for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages associated with pain and suffering. A medical malpractice case requires a plaintiff to establish that a health care provider undertook care of a patient, and thus had a duty to the patient; the duty was breached by the health care provider upon their failure to perform at the standard level of care; and that damages to the plaintiff resulted. A finding of negligence means the jury thought that the evidence showed that the woman’s health care provider committed a medical error resulting from an omission which deviated from the standards of practice generally accepted in the medical community, and found that this failure caused injury to the patient.