How Medical Negligence Can Turn Lives Upside Down
When you are ill and go the hospital for treatment, you expect to be cared for. When you are admitted to the hospital, you have the expectation of appropriate and considered care by the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who treat you. Should you receive less, and your condition worsens, the hospital may be liable for any losses you experience as a result of inferior care. If a treating physician or other medical professional makes a mistake which causes harm to you, the medical professional and the hospital may be liable for your injury, your lost wages, your pain and suffering and maybe other forms of compensation under theories of medical malpractice as well.
Medical malpractice attorneys at Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC, understand the impact of such negligence on families. The firm has represented victims and families whose lives have been turned upside down because of medical negligence. One case, which resulted in one of the top verdicts in 2014, involved a teenage boy who suffered permanent, debilitating injuries.
Late last year Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter won a $22.9 million verdict for a family whose 16-year-old son was allegedly not provided the accepted standard of care for his illness while he was a patient at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. The lawsuit alleged a mistake was made by a treating pediatrician during the child’s treatment. The 16-year-old was debilitated as a result of the mistake, and ultimately the hospital where the child was a patient was ordered to pay the child and his family millions of dollars for his suffering, his medical expenses and his lost future.
The Story Behind a $22.9 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict
In May 2009 Carlos Buri was admitted as a patient at Mt. Sinai Medical Center Intensive Care Unit. He was 16 years old. He was ill with pneumonia, a serious lung infection. The child was so severely ill his lungs were not functioning properly. He was put on a ventilator to aid the work of the lung in breathing and respiration.
But while on the ventilator Carlos’ left lung was not emitting the sounds that typically accompany proper respiration. It was determined the lung cavity was retaining air or gas instead of exhaling. This condition caused a collapse of young Carlos’ left lung. The treating pediatrician inserted a tube to address the complication, but instead of lessening the problem, Carlos got worse. Carlos’ heart stopped. Nineteen long minutes passed before the child was resuscitated.
Carlos’ father, Segundo Buri, claimed that Carlos sustained injury as a result of this medical treatment and that the treatment he received was not to the standard. Because Carlos’ heart stopped during the emergency procedure, Carolos suffered hypoxia, a condition where not enough oxygen enters the bloodstream which caused severe damage to Carlos’ brain. As a result of the brain injury, Carlos cannot walk, he cannot perform many everyday activities, he can never live independently nor will he ever be able to work.
Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter represented the Buri family and brought this case to trial. In Buri v. Mount Sinai Medical Center, Inc. Attorney Reiter provided medical evidence showing medical errors were made in Carlos’s treatment at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
A doctor testified on behalf of the Buri family stated that the treating physician did not address Carlos’ collapsed lung in a proper or timely manner. The witness physician told the jury that Carlos did not receive the accepted standard of care when the emergency arose. The expert witness/physician stated that when Carlos’s lung collapsed, Carlos should have received a thoracostomy – a surgical opening of the chest for drainage. A tube should have been inserted tube into Carlos’ lung to siphon air from the child’s lung, not to provide oxygen. Valuable time was then lost when the treating physician was needlessly trying to adjust the inserted tube to address Carlos’ emergency, but this adjustment was to no avail since the tube should have been taking oxygen out instead of increasing oxygen in the child’s lung. This expert further testified that more time was lost when the treating physician ordered X-rays when action was needed.
Another physician testified that due to the effects of the problematic treatment and the delay in administration of the proper treatment Carlos was injured. The witness described that during this emergency treatment, Carlos’ condition worsened. The treatment ultimately caused Carlos’ heart to stop, which in turn, caused the brain damage and his incapacity.
The defendant also provided evidence to the jury. Expert witnesses on behalf of the defense told the jury that the actions of the treating physician were within the accepted standard of care, describing that the tube and the adjustment were properly performed. But upon cross examination, Attorney Reiter succeeded in getting the expert to admit that the treating physician should have performed a thoracostomy, a surgical opening of the chest also described by Buri’s witness, and it should have been performed sooner.
The jury concluded that the pediatrician who made the medical decisions for Carlos’ care departed from the accepted standard of care for a patient in Carlos’ condition. The jury found Mount Sinai Medical Center responsible for the care Carlos received under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Attorney Reiter successfully proved his case, that Carlos Buri was harmed as a result of medical malpractice.
The jury reviewed Carlos’ health and his dim prospects for recovery. The jury awarded the family $4 million for past pain and suffering, $10 million for future pain and suffering, $1,739,000 for 37 years of future lost earnings, $54,000 for 54 years of future medical costs, $40,000 for 20 years of future therapeutic evaluations, $6.75 million for future costs of personal attendant services, $151,000 for 54 years of future costs of equipment, and $243,000 for 54 years of costs of disability related transportation. The award to the family totaled over $22.9 million dollars.
New York State Medical Malpractice Laws
In New York State when a physician or other medical professional does not provide a patient with the accepted standard of care for treating the patient’s illness that is usual to that geographical area, that physician/medical professional may be found negligent in his actions. If the physician/medical professional is negligent when providing care to a patient, that physician or medical professional may be guilty of medical malpractice. If a physician/medical professional does not act within this standard of medical care and the patient suffers injury as result of this lack of care, the medical professional may be found liable for the suffering of the patient and be required to pay damages to the patient. According to the American Bar Association, doctors, nurses, dentists, technicians, hospitals and hospital workers can all commit medical malpractice.
If a physician/medical professional veers from this standard of acceptable care while a patient is in the hospital setting and the patient suffers as a result of the medical professional’s choice or performance of treatment the hospital may be held liable for their error. Under the theory of respondeat superior, the hospital may be found ultimately responsible. The theory of respondeat superior is a legal doctrine which states that, in certain circumstances, an employer is responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their employment. In most instances, medical professionals working in a hospital setting are considered employees.
In New York State, if a medical professional made a mistake in your treatment and you were harmed as a result of that mistake, the medical professional or hospital may be liable for losses a patient suffered as result of their actions. If that mistake deviated from the standard of care given in that area of New York for the illness you present, the medical professional and the hospital may owe you money to help make you whole after your losses.
Every day physicians make medical decisions, sometimes important decisions need to be made quickly on a moment’s notice. When does a physician’s actions rise to medical malpractice? This can be a question for a jury to decide. In a medical malpractice case, a jury will learn from witnesses and paperwork about the patient’s illness and the treatment the patient received. A jury will be asked to decide the ultimate issues: when treating a patient who suffered an injury during treatment, did the treating physician depart from an accepted standard of care, and did that departure create the substantial cause of a patient’s ultimate injury? If a jury determines more likely than not that this happened, the physician/medical professional or hospital may then be ordered to pay damages to the patient for his injury, suffering and the income and lifestyle foregone because of the injury. The jury will also determine the amount of the damages to be ordered.
Being hurt by a treating physician or medical personnel is serious business. Mistakes made can lead to limitations in your future life. When you seek treatment by a doctor or medical professional you are owed a certain standard of care. If you are injured when a physician chooses a course of treatment that deviates from accepted standard medical treatment, and you are harmed as a result of that treatment, you may be a victim of medical malpractice. It may be the case that you need a lawyer to help you gain the compensation you need to receive the assistance necessary to overcome the pain and suffering you endured, and to be able to afford the services you require as you lead your life going forward.
New York medical malpractice victims and families whose loved ones were harmed by medical negligence may contact Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC, at 212-736-0979 or can visit www.jcreiterlaw.com. Serving Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as Suffolk County & Nassau County on Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, and throughout the State of New York.