A jury in Michigan's Wayne County determined that Detroit Medical Center was responsible for the death of Terrea Holly, a 26-year-old woman from Detroit. The family of the college student who brought the medical malpractice action was awarded $40 million in damages. A spokesman for Detroit Receiving Hospital reinforced the facility's commitment to delivering safe and quality patient care and felt disappointed with the verdict.
Holly originally arrived at Detroit Receiving Hospital complaining of trouble breathing in October 2013. According to the plaintiff's attorney, despite not completing any testing, Holly was released from the emergency room, where they believed she had a mild virus. The following day she was brought back via emergency responders in an unconscious state with blood clots and died shortly thereafter. The hospital viewed their initial decision to release her as being reasonable, despite her having indications of a pulmonary embolism. The plaintiff's attorney described the hospital's assessment of their actions as “mind-boggling”.
A reduction is likely to be applied to the award based on the legislation in place. Hospital officials say the judge is likely to reduce the award to the limitations under Michigan law for damages which are non-economic. Thus far, the hospital has not specifically asked the judge to make the reduction. The trial, which stretched on for two-weeks was overseen by Judge Annette J. Berry.
According to a report by Newsradio WWJ, the plaintiff's attorney explained that all the signs pointed to a pulmonary embolism with trouble breathing, excessive heart rate etc. He felt that if the basic tests had been completed and proper medication was provided to thin the blood, then she would be alive today.
Michigan Compiled Laws on Malpractice
In actions of medical malpractice, the damages for noneconomic losses that the plaintiff may recover is capped at $280,000. Exceptions apply in instances when the victim:
- Loses function in one or more limbs or suffers a severe injury involving the spinal cord or brain
- Endures a permanent cognitive impairment that renders them unable to function independently, to make important decisions, or conduct normal day-to-day activity
- Suffers an injury to their reproductive system that makes them unable to procreate
In those exceptional cases, the damage limitation is heightened to a $500,000 cap. Actual damages are considered to be amounts paid for health and rehabilitative costs. Factors then taken into consideration include insurance, contracted discounts, reductions in price etc. Noneconomic losses include pain, suffering, impairment, deformity, loss of companionship and others. Changes to the damage limitations are adjusted by the state treasurer based on the consumer price index according to the U.S. Department of Labor on an annual basis.