One thing we often hear from prospective jurors in Phoenix (and throughout Arizona) is that medical malpractice should have caps on damages because high verdicts cause medical costs and insurance for doctors to go up. Study after study proves that this is simply wrong, but the insurance companies have done a great job (read: spent hundreds of millions of dollars) convincing people that it is true. In Arizona, our state constitution prohibits a cap on damages for medical malpractice or wrongful death cases (and for any personal injury case). Since we have no cap on medical malpractice damages, the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors must be through the roof, right?
This month, Arizona’s largest medical malpractice insurance provider for doctors announced that it is giving its members $25 million in a dividend. This money is collected from premiums that doctors pay for their insurance, which is then used to set reserves for lawsuits. If verdicts and settlements were so egregiously high that they were harming the system, MICA would not be RETURNING $25 million to its insureds. The fact is that verdicts in Arizona are notoriously LOW when compared to other states. This is not because the cases are worth less; it is because insurance companies have spent decades bombarding Arizonians with misinformation about how lawsuits hurt the community.
For over 35 years, Snyder & Wenner has litigated only the most important medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. We have been able to provide families and victims with money to help them continue on with their lives despite their terrible, life-changing losses. We have also been fortunate to use lawsuits as a mechanism to force hospitals and doctors to change how they run their practices. Too often, hospitals and doctors put profits over safety, and fail to protect the patient. If it were not for medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits, hospitals and doctors would have no check and balance on their conduct. These cases are important, and we are proud to help those in need. So, the next time someone tells you that we need to keep medical malpractice and wrongful death verdicts in Phoenix low, please remind them that Arizona’s largest medical malpractice insurance company has made so much money that it is returning $25 MILLION to its doctors.
Snyder & Wenner, P.C., is proud to announce that two of its attorneys, David Wenner and Brian Snyder, won a $15 million verdict against Banner UMC Hospital in Tucson. The trial took 3 weeks and the jury deliberated for approximately 3.5 hours before returning the monumental verdict. It is believed that the verdict is the highest for a medical malpractice trial in Arizona in the last 20 years.
Esmeralda Tripp, 42 years old, walked into UMC Hospital on September 13, 2013. She was on a medication called Coumadin, and her blood levels were extremely high. She was treated by a resident physician, only 8 weeks out of medical school, and an attending physician. Ms. Tripp had experienced this problem many times in the past, and each time they treated her with Fresh Frozen Plasma, with Vitamin K, or simply by withholding her Coumadin. The resident physician, however, decided to suggest a very dangerous blood-clotting medication called Profilnine. The hospital had a specific guideline on when Profilnine could be used: The patient had to have serious or life-threatening bleeding or require emergency surgery. In those two scenarios, Profilnine could be used. Esmeralda did not have any serious or life-threatening bleeding, and she did not require emergency surgery. The resident physician still suggested Profilnine, and the attending physician signed off on it. After the drug was administered, the resident went home for the night because she was tired. The attending physician left the hospital before the drug was even given. Only 2 hours later, Esmeralda screamed out in pain and her vital signs crashed. It was determined that she had suffered a heart attack. She was without oxygen for so long that she suffered severe, permanent brain damage. Seven weeks later she was discharged from the hospital, in a completely unresponsive state. It has been 4 years, and Esmeralda is still completely unresponsive. Her family cares for her and she receives in-home care provided by the state.
At trial, the defense attorney argued that his clients did nothing wrong. He repeatedly told the jury that the hospital’s own guideline was simply a “suggestion,” and that the doctors could do what they wanted. He also argued that Esmeralda did not deserve any money for her injuries because she had incorrectly told prior doctors about a lengthy medical history that did not exist. Finally, he told the jury that since Esmeralda is not aware of her injuries, she does not need any money for them.
Brian Snyder gave the plaintiff’s opening statement and told the jury what happened and how Esmeralda’s life has been permanently ruined by these doctors’ choice. Along with David Wenner, the two cross-examined defendants and their experts, obtaining numerous admissions throughout the trial. Co-counsel Kevin Keenan gave the closing argument, and asked for $15-20 million to compensate Esmeralda for her losses. Only 3.5 hours later, the jury came back with precisely what they were asked to award: $15 million, which will help pay for the around-the-clock medical care that Esmeralda needs and which will compensate her for robbing her of her independence.
For years we have been telling the public all of the statistics supporting the finding that medical malpractice accounts for one of the leading causes of death in our country. A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and reported by NPR, now confirms it.
Based on the research, Johns Hopkins now estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. That ranks medical malpractice as the 3rd leading cause of death in our country, behind only heart disease and cancer. The study also noted, however, that the numbers may be even more significant, as the current coding system used by the Center For Disease Control does not account for very important factors that lead to medical malpractice, including communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, and poor judgment.
The problem is so significant, in fact, that the doctors in charge of the study actually called for changed to be made in death certificates to better reflect fatal lapses in case. In an open letter, they also urge the CDC to immediately add “medical errors” to its annual list reporting the top causes of death.
So, since this is such a significant problem, we must ask ourselves “why is nothing being done to reverse the alarming trend?” Rather than attack the problem head on, insurance companies and hospitals have engaged in a dangerous game of pointing the finger at the victims and the victims’ families who try to hold the doctors and hospitals accountable for their conduct. Tort reform is not the answer; a safer and more responsible system of medicine is.
In a previous blog, we discussed different tips expecting mothers can take to protect themselves and their babies from birth injuries. However, to more effectively safeguard yourself and your unborn child from harm during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, you need to know which injuries you and your baby could face.
Below, we discuss the most common types of birth injuries your child could sustain, as well as the conditions you are at risk for. Read on to learn which types of injury you and your baby could face so you can reduce your chances for injury.
When children or teens experience the death of someone they are close to—whether it be a parent, sibling, friend, or mentor—they can undergo intense feelings of grief, anger, and loneliness. Lack of maturity and life experience can make children feel powerless in the face of sorrow.
The trauma of loss can be extremely difficult for children to withstand, but when the death of a loved one is caused by the negligence of someone else, feelings of anguish can be overwhelming. Of course, a wrongful death is painful for everyone in the family, but adults need to help children and teens deal with mourning and grief.
Healing comes with understanding, communication, and time. Below are some ideas on how you can help your children cope with the wrongful death of a loved one.
Like all doctors, psychiatrists—medical practitioners who specialize in mental illnesses—are held to certain standards of diagnosis, treatment, and care. If a psychiatrist violates his or her duty to patients, that psychiatrist may be charged with medical malpractice.
Standards of medical skill help protect both psychiatrists and patients, but when those standards are violated, psychiatric malpractice may have occurred. This blog discusses what psychiatric malpractice is and how to protect against it.
In 2010, an ABC News story shocked America when it revealed that the average emergency room visitor had to wait over four hours to receive treatment. The absurd wait time was attributed to overcrowding in public hospitals.
Since that time, hospitals around the country have made extensive efforts to decrease their ER wait times. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the average patient waited just 30 minutes before treatment.
The improvement is laudable, but for some, a 30-minute wait is still too long. Unfortunately, emergency room malpractice occurs frequently, and legal action may be required to receive compensation for injuries caused by or exacerbated as a result of a long wait or an ER doctor’s negligence.
It is widely known that doctors and other medical professionals can make serious errors due to negligence. What is less known is how those errors permanently impact the victims of malpractice. These victims are forced to deal with the emotional and physical consequences of the injuries that doctors cause. Those effects commonly impact the rest of their lives.
Despite the life-changing outcomes, some malpractice victims don’t seek compensation. Many patients simply are not sure if medical malpractice occurred in their specific situation. People mistakenly believe that errors can just happen in a hospital, so no one is responsible for that. Other victims wait too long to consult a lawyer, and the statute of limitations expires. In Arizona, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice is two years from when the person knew or should have known of the injuries to put him/her on notice to investigate what caused the injuries. This deadline can often be confusing, as doctors may tell the patient that his/her outcome is expected and normal, when, in fact, it is not.
Placing your loved one in a nursing home is not an enviable task. Nursing homes are notorious for their poor, substandard care of their patients, and handing your family member over to inattentive caretakers is disconcerting, at best. Nursing homes know their reputation in the public eye; they know that decades of poor care has resulted in mistrust and skepticism. This view has spilled over into the courtrooms, where jurors have routinely held nursing homes accountable for the deaths and/or mistreatment of patients to the tune of millions of dollars for each grieving family member.
6 Signs That Your Loved One Needs a Better Nursing Home
According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, the elderly population ages 85 and above will increase by nearly 350 percent in America by 2050. This statistic holds dramatic implications for nursing home care throughout the country.
If your loved one already lives in a long-term care facility or nursing home, you may already know about the facility’s challenges. For one thing, many nursing homes are short staffed—a problem that will only grow in coming years. Unfortunately, staffing pressures sometimes lead to neglect and elder abuse in some cases.
Watch for the following warning signs at your local nursing home so you can safeguard your loved one from neglect or abuse.