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Washington State Jury Awards $1.2 Million In Medical Negligence Case Involving Back Surgery

A jury in Yakima, Washington awarded $1.2 million in a medical malpractice suit brought by Emily Daley against Dr. Michael Thomas, a spine surgeon. Dr. Thomas, of Cascade Neurological Associates, performed surgery on Daley in 2011 to correct a back problem. Daley had endured scoliosis since she was a teenager and the pain worsened significantly over the years. 

Scoliosis is a condition where the backbone is curved at a minimum of a 10 degree angle and the cause is usually not able to be determined. Shortly after the procedure, Daley sensed some pain relief; however, it quickly turned for the worse as the pain returned. After being examined by other physicians, she believed her surgery had been substandard. In 2014, she went to St. Louis for a surgery to correct the problem.

Jury Findings

The jury, which was in Yakima County Superior Court, determined that Dr. Thomas had been negligent, which led to the plaintiff’s injuries. The allocation of funds was roughly $200,000 for medically-related expenses and $1 million for noneconomic damages. Felix Luna, the attorney for the plaintiff, explained that Daley’s pain was extremely severe and often caused her to pass out. 

Doctor Encounters Other Problems

Doctor Thomas had some additional problems when co-workers observed him behaving unusually in the operating room one day in 2012. The Department of Health records indicated he had been taking narcotics and benzodiazepines and the patient that day had experienced difficulties after surgery. Thomas himself had undergone back surgery around this time. In 2014, he entered an inpatient drug treatment program and was subjected to random drug screening. The Department of Health website showed that his license to practice was last renewed in 2015; however, it expired in 2016.

Summary of Washington Medical Malpractice Laws

The state allows for plaintiff recovery in actions of medical malpractice when one or more of the following occurs:

  • The injury was the result of a medical provider’s failure to deliver the proper standard of care
  • A medical provider had made an assurance that the injury that resulted would not occur
  • The injury was the result of a procedure that occurred without patient consent

The state maintains a statute of limitations for a period of three years. Claims that are filed within 90 days of the expiration of the statute of limitations may be granted a 90 day extension. At one time, the plaintiffs were required to file a certificate of merit, which was completed by a medical expert stating that there was reason to believe that the medical provider failed to meet the standards of care; however, this was later deemed unconstitutional by placing a burden on the public’s access to the court.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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