Following a three-week trial that ended in late-July, 2012, a Colorado Springs, Colorado medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $15 million against a hospital and an emergency room physician for medical negligence that allegedly resulted in the paralysis of a 36-year-old man from the chest down a few hours after he was misdiagnosed in the hospital’s emergency department.
The man’s complaints of severe neck pain and numbness in his arms and legs were misdiagnosed by the emergency room physician as a neck strain when in fact the man had a herniated disk in his neck that was compressing his spinal cord and causing progressive neurological damage. The emergency room physician discharged the man to home. Within a few hours after discharge, the man was completely paralyzed. The man returned to the hospital where he was left untreated for almost two hours.
Because the hospital had settled with the man shortly before the medical malpractice trial, the medical malpractice insurance company for the emergency room physician will be responsible to pay only the emergency room physician’s portion of the verdict. Furthermore, the portion of the verdict for non-economic damages ($10 million) will be reduced to $300,000, which is the cap (limit) on non-economic damages (damages such as pain, suffering, impairment, and disfigurement) under Colorado’s law.
Colorado’s cap on non-economic damages applies to claims against health care providers only (if the man had been injured as a result of a fall due to the negligence of another or as a result of a traffic collision caused by another, there would be no cap applied to his recovery for his non-economic damages). Because the man’s injuries were as a result of medical negligence, the most the man can recover for his non-economic damages is $300,000.
The 36-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair as a result of medical malpractice. He will be unable to walk for the rest of his life and his enjoyment of life has been permanently and catastrophically damaged, forever — all due to the medical malpractice committed by a hospital and its emergency room physician who had it within their sole power and control to prevent the man from becoming permanently paralyzed.
Is it fair, just, ethical, or “right” to arbitrarily disallow and slash the medical malpractice jury’s award of non-economic damages in the amount of $10 million under the circumstances and considering the extent of the man’s devastating injuries? Why should the negligent emergency room physician be entitled to special treatment and special protection from his own negligence that he would not have enjoyed had the physician injured the man as a result of negligent driving instead of negligent medical care?
Does anyone really believe that the sum of $300,000 is anywhere near fair or adequate compensation for the pain, suffering, mental anguish, and physical impairment that a 36-year-old man will suffer for the rest of his life?
If you, a love one, or a friend have been seriously injured as a result of possible medical malpractice in Colorado or in any other state in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice from a local medical malpractice attorney to learn about your legal rights and to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
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