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Hospital Negligence


Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.*

The Case

A Missouri woman was admitted to her local hospital for removal of an encapsulated kidney tumor. Following surgery, she was deemed a high fall risk, so the hospital equipped her bed with an alarm system, which was wired into the hospital nurse alert/call system.

Four nights after surgery, the woman got out of the hospital bed and fell, causing a fracture to her cervical spine. In a wrongful death suit, her surviving spouse and adult son alleged that the bed alarms did not sound when she exited the bed and that nursing staff didn’t realize she’d fallen until four minutes later, when her heart rate monitor sent an alert that her heart had flatlined.

Telemetry strips showed no real resuscitation efforts were made, and no intubation of the plaintiff was accomplished until nine minutes after the fall. By this point, the woman had been deprived of oxygen for more than four minutes and was clinically brain dead.

Cook, Barkett, Ponder & Wolz’s investigation efforts found that for years the hospital’s bed alarms were considered generally unreliable – failing to sound and communicate with the nursing call system or sounding in the room but not in the nursing call system.

The Result

Cook, Barkett, Ponder and Wolz argued that the hospital’s negligence in failing to maintain the alarm system and to timely respond to treat the plaintiff constituted aggravating circumstance. The case was settled for $950,000 – nearly three times Missouri’s $350,000 non-economic damages cap in place for medical malpractice wrongful death suits.

*Johns Hopskins

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