This week, a Kansas City woman was awarded $2.5 million in a wrongful death case when a physician’s negligence led to a stillborn birth of her son in 2010. In Clay County, it is only the second case in the last ten years to favor the plaintiff.
Johnna Hughes, a 44-year-old single mom, was 35 weeks pregnant with her first son when she began to experience a severe pain on her right side, and was taken to the emergency room. The staff at North Kansas City Hospital decided to admit her to the ER instead of labor and delivery, and an ER doctor diagnosed Hughes with gallstones and a hematoma, a collection of blood outside the blood vessel. The doctor was made aware of pre-existing conditions that Hughes had, including two blood-clotting disorders.
Instead of monitoring Hughes or completing further tests, the ER doctor discharged Hughes with a prescription for pain medication. Hughes missed an Ob/Gyn appointment the next morning because she wasn’t feeling well. The next day, Hughes’ daughter found her comatose and took her back to the ER. Hughes had lost more than 50% of her blood and had gone into kidney failure.
Hughes survived but her newborn, Chayden, was stillborn due to a lack of oxygen and blood supply.
Most medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. When cases do go to trial, juries are often very sympathetic to the accused heath care professionals. Studies have found that juries are more likely to side with expert witnesses representing health care professionals than plaintiffs. Some policy experts believe this is related to societal instilled values that doctors are people who can be trusted, so juries are more likely to give doctors the benefit of the doubt and allow that not all medical cases have a positive outcome.
Others say that it is less a matter of jury bias than a representation of the types of cases that go to court; when a case settles both parties recognize that one is at fault, when it goes to court both parties adamantly believe that the other was at fault. About half of all cases that go to trial are dismissed, so the cases that make it to trial are often highly divisive.
Juries can be equally emotionally disposed to plaintiffs in cases. When deliberations began for Hughes case, the jury was split at 6-6, but eventually sided with Hughes in a 9-3 case. Two jurors were so touched by Hughes’ loss that they contacted her after the trial and took her to dinner.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from medical negligence, you should contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney. An qualified attorney will have the expertise you need to receive compensation for your injury.