Danny and Nikki Metts brought a medical negligence claim in a Franklin County court against Athens Medical Laboratory, University Medical Associates (UMA) and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The defendants were alleged to have failed to meet the standards of care when treating their 9-year-old son (Bradley) for an ear infection. The claim stated that a failure to diagnose and treat led to a brain infection that has left him partially paralyzed and unable to walk. A jury recently awarded the family $44.5 million.
Metts was treated at UMA for the infection and the physician ordered that Athens Medical Laboratory process and report the lab results “STAT.” A STAT lab report is one that must be completed in roughly two hours. The lab results were not received back for six days, during which time the bacterial infection had spread. The defendants were said to have “failed to perform services in a reasonable and prudent manner.”
One Defendant Physician Seeks Immunity
Dr. Amy Zidron was on staff at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and was one of the medical providers involved in the treatment of Metts. Here counsel contended that she was conducting clinical teaching at the time on behalf of the state and sought immunity from liability. Magistrate Holly Shaver was among those who found Zidron was not “furthering the state’s interests” at the time. It was determined that no student (resident in training) was present when Zidron examined Metts.
The overall award included $24.5 million in economic damages and $20 million in non-economic damages, which the jury allocated as follows.
- Past economic damages: $3.2 million for past medical expenses
- Past economic damages (non-medical): $65,000
- Future medical expenses: $18.5 million
- Future lost earnings: $2.6 million
- Past non-economic damages: $5 million for pain, suffering, deformity, and anguish (Bradley Metts)
- Past non-economic damages: $2.5 million for pain and suffering (family)
- Future non-economic damages: $10 million
Allocation of Liability
Following surgery, Nationwide Children’s Hospital demonstrated a failure to monitor Metts resulting in advanced swelling that led to paralysis. The swelling and force against the brain should have been reduced by draining the region. The proportional breakdown of negligence was:
Athens Medical Laboratory
University Medical Associates
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Staci James, UMA Nurse Practitioner
Joint & Severable Liability
According to the doctrine of joint and severable liability, each party (defendant) is individually liable for the total of the damages. With joint liability, each independent tortfeasor is responsible for the full scope of injuries. Any party paying the full judgment amount has a right to pursue compensation from the others. When liability is severed each defendant’s liability remains as “separate” or distinctive. In Ohio, when a defendant is determined to be 50% or more liable, this defendant is potentially responsible for all damages. Additional defendants that are under 50% liable are only responsible for the allocated percentage of damages attributed to them, or their proportional share of liability.
This case involved one of the rare examples where an ear infection worsened and resulted in long-term medical consequences. Some ear infections that are ineffectively treated can spread. Often the infection progresses to a bone behind the ear known as the mastoid and forms a sac (cyst) that contains fluid. If the problem worsens the infection may begin to surround the brain, often resulting in meningitis.
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