Plaintiff Kevin Clanton was recently awarded $29.6 million in a medical malpractice case in an East St. Louis Federal Court against the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation (SIHF), which is funded by the federal government. Because the government was the named defendant, the action was filed in accordance with the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"). Prior to the FTCA, the doctrine of sovereign immunity shielded the government from such claims. Denise Jordan, a nurse, was determined to have been negligent after Clanton developed kidney failure that required a transplant. Judge Nancy Rosenstengel explained that Jordan failed to properly educate Clanton regarding his hypertension, provided inadequate treatment of his high blood pressure, and improperly recorded the results of testing which showed the onset of kidney disease. The large size of the award is partly to account for coverage of future medical costs, which will likely include another transplant.
The court ordered the parties to present worksheets detailing their calculations and suggested judgments based on her instructions. The future damages are based on Clanton living to reach the age of 70. The defense consented to the state's provision for periodic payments and the summary of the damages awarded are as follows:
- $1.5M for pain and suffering & $3.5M for future pain and suffering
- $1.5M for emotional distress & $1M for future emotional distress
- $1.5M for loss of normalcy & $2.5M for future loss of normalcy
- $2.7M for medical costs $13M for future medical costs
- $2M for reduced life expectancy
- $63,000 for lost wages & $100,000 for future lost wages
Judge Rosenstengel explained that Jordan demonstrated a failure to educate Clanton on the severity of his conditions. Jordan insisted that she had adhered to her duties; however, was unable to cite any specific treatment or instructions that were delivered to Clanton. The court found there to be a lack of interactive conversation and that literature should have been provided regarding his conditions. Clanton was unaware that hypertension could result in kidney failure until he was brought to an emergency room. Clanton underwent dialysis for several years prior to receiving a needed transplant.
Plaintiff attorney Troy Walton summarized the case as a situation where medical staff exhibited negligence through misdiagnosis and oversight. He felt that Clanton was awarded rightful financial compensation for the insufficient levels of medical care that he had received. Jordan functioned as a primary care healthcare provider, handling various patient conditions, often receiving 15 to 20 visiting patients per day. Nurses acting in her role rely on assistance and counsel from a physician in making a diagnosis or other situations that may exceed their level of knowledge and training. These arrangements for nurses with advanced training are based on the Illinois Nurse Practice Act which requires a collaborative agreement that is made in writing, which was the case at the SIHF.