On March 11, 2014, the Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two upheld an Arizona medical malpractice jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $7,275,160, after an eleven-day trial. The evidence introduced by the plaintiff during the trial indicated that the plaintiff had suffered economic losses up to $3.5 million (past medical expenses totaled approximately $330,000; future medical expenses totaled almost $2 million; lost earning capacity until retirement ranged between approximately $400,000 and $740,000, depending on pay; and, the loss of household services was approximately $485,000).
The Underlying Facts
In April 2008, the plaintiff slipped on a wet floor and injured her right knee, which eventually required surgery to repair a torn meniscus. When the plaintiff’s pain continued after her surgery, she sought treatment with another orthopedic surgeon. The orthopedic surgeon determined that the plaintiff’s meniscus was still torn and he performed a second surgery on the plaintiff’s knee, on September 5, 2008.
The plaintiff’s condition initially improved after the second surgery but within a week her knee became swollen, red, and painful. About one week after the surgery, the orthopedic surgeon’s physician’s assistant (“PA”) diagnosed the plaintiff with a skin infection and provided her with an antibiotic.
On September 14, 2008, the plaintiff went to the emergency room where she was seen by the orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed a common skin infection and prescribed a different antibiotic. Five days later, the plaintiff called the orthopedic surgeon’s office to advise that her knee still hurt and was now draining fluid; the plaintiff was told to continue taking the antibiotic.
On September 24, 2008, the plaintiff saw the PA in the orthopedic surgeon’s office; he still believed that the plaintiff had a skin infection. On October 10, 2008, the PA aspirated the plaintiff’s knee; three days later, the results came back positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a serious infection that destroys tissue and if found in a joint, requires high doses of antibiotics as well as surgery to wash it out.
On October 22, 2008, the plaintiff saw the orthopedic surgeon; two days later, the orthopedic surgeon performed washout surgery. The plaintiff had two additional washout surgeries and eventually required a knee replacement. Despite the knee replacement, the plaintiff continued to experience pain and was subsequently diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS – a chronic pain condition caused by a nerve injury).
The Arizona Medical Malpractice Claim
In 2010, the plaintiff filed her medical malpractice lawsuit against the orthopedic surgeon and his employer, alleging that the orthopedic surgeon negligently delayed in diagnosing and treating her MRSA that resulted in the need for aggressive medical treatment and the plaintiff’s permanent impairment. The plaintiff and the defendant orthopedic surgeon settled the claims against him days before the trial; only the orthopedic surgeon’s employer remained as the defendant during the trial.
After the jury returned its verdict, the medical malpractice defendant (employer) filed a motion for new trial, arguing that the amount of the verdict shocked the conscience and was not supported by evidence, among other allegations of error. The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion for new trial and the defendant filed its appeal.
The Appeals Court noted that the jury was instructed to compensate the plaintiff not only for her past and future medical bills and lost earnings, but also for pain, disfigurement, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life. The Appeals Court noted that the plaintiff had demonstrated for the jury that her knee is locked in position, requiring her to walk on her toes; the plaintiff’s boyfriend testified that riding in the car causes the plaintiff pain; and, the plaintiff cannot travel long distances. The Appeals Court stated, “Because reasonable people may differ as to how much [the plaintiff] should be compensated for her pain, we do not find the trial court erred denying the motion for a new trial.”
Lori Sandretto, a single woman v. Payson Healthcare Management, Inc., an Arizona corporation, dba Payson Regional Bone & Joint. No. 2CA-CV 2013-0044. Click here to read the Appeals Court opinion.
If you or a loved one may have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical negligence in Arizona or in another U.S. state, you should promptly contact an Arizona medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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