The Oregon Supreme Court recently overturned a verdict that would have provided a mother and her child with the money they need in order to cover their current and future medical costs. Even though the woman's child will never have a normal life because of doctor errors, the court agreed with the hospital that they do not owe her any additional monies despite what the jury and the judge who presided over the medical malpractice case said. Therefore, she is now contemplating filing for bankruptcy to deal with the millions of dollars in medical bills that remain.
The child was taken to Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital (OHSU) after a tumor was found during a doctor visit, which his parents thought was only constipation. During the surgery, vital blood vessels were severed, and the child bled for approximately 45 minutes before the error was discovered. The incident caused his liver to fail. Doctors at OHSU attempted to correct the problem during three subsequent procedures, but the problem only worsened. Finally, he underwent a liver transplant in which his mother donated a portion of her liver.
The hospital admitted liability and paid the mother $3 million. At that point, the health insurance companies who were covering the care of the boy and his mother decided to cease payments. Moreover, they demanded that the money they had already put out be repaid. The woman filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get all of the medical bills covered, and a jury awarded her and her son approximately $12 million. Unfortunately, the supreme court's decision denied her and her son that money.
OHSU argued to the state supreme court that it had already settled the woman's claims when it admitted fault and made the $3 million cap payment. The court agreed. The mother's options may be limited at this point, but her case could serve as a warning to other people who suffered serious injury or lost a loved one due to doctor errors. Victims and/or their families are not obligated to accept a settlement no matter how attractive it might seem without first consulting with an attorney who can help determine whether the offer is fair. If not, the parties can pursue their right to file a medical malpractice claim.
Source: Palo Alto, CA Patch, "A Mother's Day Without Justice for One Mom", May 6, 2016