Posts Tagged ‘verdict’

Connecticut Jury Awards Smoker $8 Million Against Tobacco Co.

June 3, 2010

Despite the national headlines over the past decade or more regarding tobacco litigation, the state of Connecticut had never before seen a successful product liability action against a tobacco company. That is, until Barbara Izzarelli recently prevailed in her case against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds. Law.com recently reported that a federal jury awarded Ms. Izzarelli $8 million as compensation for larynx cancer that she developed at age 36 and which she contended was caused by smoking R.J. Reynolds cigarettes for more than twenty years.

The case focused on R.J. Reynolds’ marketing strategy, primarily the company’s alleged efforts to specifically target the teen market back in the 1970’s when Ms. Izzarelli was a teenager and first began to smoke. Her attorneys, led by David Golub of the law firm of Silver, Golub & Teitell, alleged that R.J. Reynolds conducted marketing research on the smoking habits of youths as young as twelve and implemented various business practices directed at luring young people to cigarettes.

[Golub] contended that in the 1970s, after young smokers were attracted to flip-top boxes in which Philip Morris’ Marlboro cigarettes were sold, R.J. Reynolds developed new products to appeal to 14- to 20-year-olds. Golub further argued that those cigarettes were sold in popular teen hang-outs and at reduced prices.

While the jury found in Ms. Izzarelli’s favor, it did not absolve her completely of her own conduct in choosing to smoke for more than twenty years. The original verdict had been $13.6 million, but the jury found that Ms. Izzarelli was 42% at fault so the verdict was reduced to $8 million (Connecticut recognizes the doctrine of comparative negligence, meaning that a jury award can be reduced depending on whether, and to what extent, the plaintiff was negligent.). Still to be decided is the issue of whether R.J. Reynolds should be subjected to punitive damages, i.e., a monetary award intended to punish the company and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Should punitive damages be assessed, the total award could potentially be as high as $24 million.

For Ms. Izzarelli, who will soon turn 50, this verdict was a long time coming. She was originally diagnosed with larynx cancer in 1996. She filed suit eleven years ago in 1999. According to her attorneys, she is currently “very disabled” and is unable to breathe through her nose or mouth. She instead uses a tube inserted in her throat. Because of her injuries, her diet is restricted to soft foods. Despite these limitations, Mr. Golub calls her “a remarkable woman to overcome these health problems and lead a normal life as much as she can.”

Despite the decade-long efforts to seek redress for her injuries, the verdict and the jury award are still not final. According to David Howard, a spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds, the company has promised to appeal the verdict.

“We’re disappointed in the decision in this matter,” said Howard. “We have several grounds for appeal and we are confident in our defenses going forward.”

Early comments by the defense indicate that R.J. Reynolds will challenge the trial court allegedly denying it the right to put on a ‘full medical defense’ in which Reynold intended to show that it was improbable that the plaintiff’s injuries were related to her smoking. The second issue mentioned post-verdict was the perceived error by the trial judge allowing “all youth marketing evidence despite the fact that, before trial, one of the plaintiff’s claims was dismissed because there was no evidence that the plaintiff was affected by any quote, unquote youth marketing.”

We will keep you posted on any developments in this case.

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IV infiltration leads to $1.5 million verdict when patient loses thumb.

May 29, 2010

Recent news from Georgia (where the state’s cap on non-economic damages was recently overturned): A patient, Johnnie Jackson, age 47, was awarded $1.5 million for pain and suffering in addition to recovery of his medical expenses, for injuries he sustained when delay in treating an infiltration of his IV ultimately led to the loss  of his thumb.

Mr Jackson presented to Coffee Regional Medical Center for complications resulting from a pancreatic condition on April 30, 2005. Mr. Jackson had a known history of diabetes and chronic pancreatitis.

Upon presentation, a nurse administered Phenergan and Demerol through an IV, which had been inserted into Mr. Jackson’s right wrist. At approximately 3:00 a.mm on the morning of May1, Mr. Jackson complained of swelling and pain at the site of the IV causing it to be removed 45 minutes later.

After nine hours of complaints, Mr. Jackson was examined by his physician, who found that the medications had leaked into the surrounding tissues. Mr. Jackson’s physician elevated the arm in a failed attempt to reduce the swelling. On the afternoon of May 2, Mr. Jackson was transported to the South Georgia Medical Center for advanced treatment.

A pretrial order revealed that Mr. Jackson was transported to  the medical center for the treatment of a blood clot that was found near his thumb.  During Mr. Jackson’s 24 day admission at the medical center, he underwent a multiple surgeries by an orthopedic surgeon, who was unable to salvage Mr. Jackson’s thumb.

Mr. Jackson’s attorney, Laura Shamp, filed suit against Coffee Regional and five treating nurses in 2007 alleging that Mr. Jackson was unable to work due to frequent hospitalizations caused by diabetes and pancreatitis, but that:

…the hospital gave him a ‘job’ of living without his thumb for the rest of his life, so he should be paid for it.

“Their defense was that the IV did not infiltrate and that even if it did, that was not what caused the loss of his thumb,” said Shamp. “They said it was simply that strange things happen and this was a coincidental blood clot that ended up contributing clotting at the same time.”

With the plaintiff’s permission, the named nurses were dismissed with the hospital remaining as the sole defendant. The Coffee County jury awarded Mr. Jackson $53,026 for medical expenses and $1.5 million for pain and suffering.

Wife suffers second-hand asbestos exposure from husband’s clothes. CA jury awards her huge verdict.

May 28, 2010

Bobby Evans was a loyal employee of the Los Angeles County Department of Water and Power (DWP) for nearly 25 years. Little did he know, he was exposing his wife to second-hand asbestos.

Rhoda Evans, wife of retired DWP worker Bobby Evans, was diagnosed with mesothelioma after years of washing Mr. Evans’ clothing that had been coated daily in asbestos fibers. For nearly 25 years, Mr. Evans unknowingly worked cutting cement water pipes that contained asbestos and brought these dangerous fibers home with him on his clothing. Certain Teed Corporation, the supplier of the asbestos cement pipes, neglected to warn consumers of the risks in using their products containing harmful substances.

Certain Teed Corporation had known about the risk factors of working with asbestos materials since the 1960’s, yet never placed warning labels on their products until 1985. By 1985, it was too late for Rhoda Evans, who now suffers from  a life-threatening, incurable cancer.

Mrs. Evan filed suit against the Certain Teed Corporation with the following accusations:

Certain Teed actually concealed the risk of asbestos exposure from DWP officials “in an effort to protect the $40 million in annual revenues the company made on selling asbestos-containing cement pipe to the county.”

The LA Department of Water and Power was also held partially responsible for the compensatory portion of the award for its failure to adequately protect Bobby Evans on the job.

Mrs. Evans was awarded $8.8 million for compensatory damages and an additional $200 million to be paid by the Certain Teed Corporation for punitive damages.  Attorney’s for the Corporation feel that the punitive damages award is unconstitutional and plan to appeal the verdict.

Since 1929, an estimate of 600,000 lawsuit have been filed for mesothelioma and asbestos disease. Whether the punitive damage award is lessened in the case of Mrs. Evans is unknown; however, it is expected to encourage manufacturers to settle such cases out of court, as opposed to trying them before a jury. Hopefully, this message sent by the jury will resonant among the manufacturing community as well: if you are aware of potential dangers to the users of your product, you better warn people about that danger while you are taking pr0active steps to correct it!

Semi-Paralyzed from a Steroid Injection earns FL Woman $36 Million

May 14, 2010

Kathleen Ramey presented to Dr. Andrew Weiss, a pain management specialist, for a steroid injection in September of 2000 after having been in a motor vehicle collision. Believing she would leave pain free and on the road to recovery, Ms. Ramey got anything but that result.

The injection left Ms. Ramey with a four inch hole in her spinal cord, which according to the report of The Palm Beach Post, left Ms. Ramey suffering constant pain and with a disfigured right arm. A Palm Beach County jury awarded Ms. Ramey $23.6 million; her husband was awarded an additional $13 million in damages.

Apparently, Dr. Weiss did not put up a very strong defense. In fact, he was not even at the trial. Moreover, he did not have any legal representation on his behalf in the courtroom.

Why in the world would that be, and where was he? The Palm Beach Post advises, “He is in the midst of serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2006 to four counts of illegally distributing oxycodone. His state medical license has been revoked.”

I’ve heard of ‘paper judgments’ before, but this story is truly tragic on so many levels. One of those is not the incarceration of Dr. Weiss. Though Ms. Ramey won her case, it could be a long time (if ever) before she sees any compensation for her horrible injuries.

Malpractice Verdict: NY jury renders verdict in excess of $60 million for brain damage from dystocia

April 29, 2010

Mary Swanson gave birth to Michael Swanson, October 10, 2003 at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY. While giving birth, Mary Swanson was found to have dystocia,  a condition in which the child’s shoulder becomes entrapped by the mother’s pubic bone.

Mrs. Swanson and her husband, Bruce, alleged that the obstetrician, Dr. Carla Eng-Kohn, and the hospital’s staff were negligent in properly performing Michael’s delivery.

Plaintiffs’ counsel also claimed that dystocia was a result of a nurse’s mismanagement of the delivery. Dr. Eng-Kohn was not present when the nurse initiated the pushing process. Swanson’s counsel contended that Mary Swanson’s unsupervised pushing led to the development of the dystocia.

The plaintiffs’ expert obstetrician also opined that eight or nine minutes passed before the dystocia was relieved, and the plaintiffs’ expert neurologist testified that the prolonged dystocia asphyxiated the baby. He stated his opinion that monitors indicated that Michael suffered two minutes of tachycardia, which is an abnormally fast heartbeat, and he suggested that the condition was an indication of distress. Plaintiffs’ counsel claimed that Michael was not crying when he was delivered and that the child’s face exhibited a bluish discoloration.

To complete delivery, excessive traction was applied to the baby’s head causing a brachial plexus injury and lateral medullary syndrome. The child’s residual injuries include moderate speech delays and the delayed ability to swallow and complications from aspiration pneumonia. Plaintiffs claimed Michael will need surgical intervention and/or need permanent residential care, intense speech, physical and occupational therapy.

Michael’s parents sought recovery of Michael’s past medical expenses, the cost of his future rehabilitative therapy, the cost of his future custodial care, his remaining future medical expenses, his future lost earnings, and damages for his past and future pain and suffering .

After hearing all the evidence, the jury found that Women’s Medical Associates was vicariously responsible for Dr. Eng-Kohn’s actions and along with the doctor, was assigned 75% of the total liability. Northern Westchester Hospital was charged with the other 25% liability. The Swanson’s were awarded a total of $60,939,847.00 for all damages.

$16.5 Million Malpractice Verdict – CA – Neurosurgery

February 24, 2010


Trent Hughes and wife, Lisa, won a $16.5 million dollar verdict in a California court against neurosurgeon, Dr. Christopher Pham.    

Medical records indicated that Mr. Hughes received a spinal cord injury November 2, 2003, while off-roading and was flown to Riverside County Medical Center. Mr Hughes sustained a spinal fracture with compression unrelieved by surgery from Dr. Pham until two days following the initial injury.

The allegations in this lawsuit were that by the time Dr. Pham performed the surgery, it was too late and that the damage to Mr. Hugh’s spinal cord had become irreversible.

The Plaintiffs received compensation for the loss of consortium, lost income, medical expenses (past and future), pain and suffering and rehabilitative costs.

Contributor:  Caitlynn Gillyard

» Girl who doesn’t age wins bruising suit against Hopkins  

February 10, 2010

The Daily Record reports a verdict this past Friday, February 5, 2010, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, MD, in favor of the Greenberg family, which brought suit against Johns Hopkins Hospital for bruising she sustained while in the hospital’s care.  The Greenbergs, represented by Bob Weltchek and his son, Nolan, successfully prosecuted a claim that the hospital inappropriately restrained their child following a procedure in 2007; an award of $250,000 in compensatory damages resulted from the jury’s verdict.

The hospital, represented by Steven Hamilton and Karen Turner of Hamilton, Altman, Canale & Dillon in Bethesda, Maryland, has not yet decided whether to take an appeal from the verdict.

As interesting as the verdict may be, of at least equal interest is the history of this child, now 17 years old, and her relationship with Hopkins.

Brooke Greenberg turned 17 last month but looks and acts like a normal infant. She has been the subject of numerous news stories and documentaries, including a TLC special, “Child Frozen in Time.” Scientists continue to study her DNA to learn more about her aging process and in an attempt to explain her condition, as she has never been diagnosed with any type of genetic mutation.

Doctors at Hopkins had cared for Brooke when she experienced health problems early in her life, and she was a familiar face by the time she arrived for surgery March 12, 2007, with her own special crib and swing at the hospital, according to the lawsuit originally filed five months later. No complications from the surgery were reported, Weltchek said.

Howard Greenberg arrived at the hospital the next morning to find his daughter “in an agitated state, sitting unattended in a swing in the hospital corridor,” according to the complaint. Brooke was seen by a family pediatrician, who alerted Hopkins about the bruising, according to the complaint.

Danny Jacobs, the legal affairs writer for The Daily Record, reports in his article:  

The hospital says it followed its policy and reported the bruising to the city’s Child Protective Services, which investigated the matter along with police and the state’s attorney’s office. No evidence of abuse was found.

Nolan Weltchek believes that the verdict in part was influenced by the fact that the child’s attending nurse made a change to the medical record 3 days after the incident, when she noted the bruising for the first time.  There was also photographic evidence of the injury shown to the jury.

Hopkins has issued a statement, which states in part:

“We remain confident that the care this child received at Hopkins was compassionate, caring and appropriate.  Johns Hopkins has cared compassionately for Brooke Greenberg during her multiple hospitalizations at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and her condition is both complex and heartbreaking.”

Jacobs further reports:

The hospital says it followed its policy and reported the bruising to the city’s Child Protective Services, which investigated the matter along with police and the state’s attorney’s office. No evidence of abuse was found. Counts in the lawsuit alleging battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress were dismissed prior to the trial, leaving only a medical malpractice claim.

The Greenbergs severed ties with Hopkins following the March 2007 surgery, Weltchek added. The family now takes Brooke to Sinai Hospital for any medical issues and has given a team of geneticists in North Carolina the rights to study her.