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$44.1 million jury verdict based on medical mistake

One of the largest medical malpractice awards in the country so far this year, i.e., the sum of $44.1 million, was rendered by a jury in another jurisdiction. The verdict was entered against a doctor and a renowned university hospital where the surgery took place. The theory of recovery for the plaintiff was based on the failure of the hospital staff and the medical mistake of the doctor to not recognize the female patient's adverse reaction to the blood thinner, Heparin. The principles of negligence under California law are similar to the principles applied in the case.

The patient was in the hospital for surgical removal of a benign tumor in her brain. After removal of the tumor, testing was allegedly commenced to determine whether the blood had thinned too much. For six days, it was alleged that the tests showed a steady movement each day from the low end to the high end of the coagulation spectrum.

It was also alleged that instead of stopping the Heparin, the hospital staff at the University of Pennsylvania stopped the testing. Three days after that, the patient died of a massive brain bleed. By thinning the blood too much, it traveled rapidly to all areas of the body and especially into the brain. Although the drug is used to thin the blood and therefore prevent or treat blood clots, it can have a paradoxical when allowed to thin the blood too much.

The defendant tried to argue to the jury, obviously unsuccessfully, that the dosage of heparin and blood monitoring was appropriate and did not involve medical mistake. It tried to show that the bleeding was caused by complications from the original surgery carried out to remove the tumor. However, the plaintiff likely argued, and the jury agreed, that the use of an aggressive blood thinner after a surgical brain procedure increased the risk of a brain bleed. This increased danger required more careful monitoring and reading of the results than the defendant applied under these facts. A similar conclusion could be arrived at by using the negligence principles applicable here in California.                                                                                                                                     

Source:, "Medical Malpractice: Jury Finds Doctor, Hospital Liable in Heparin Brain Hemorrhage Case", June 3, 2016

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