On April 25, 2013, the Supreme Court of Mississippi (“Mississippi Supreme Court”) overturned a $1 million medical malpractice jury verdict in favor of the medical malpractice plaintiff, holding that the trial judge committed reversible error in instructing the jury that they could consider the “value of life” of the deceased in awarding damages, and because the attorney for the medical malpractice plaintiff made improper and prejudicial comments to the jury during closing arguments. The Mississippi Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial.
The Underlying Facts
On July 13, 2005, the decedent was admitted into a local Mississippi hospital with complaints of confusion, decreased appetite, and tremors. She also had end-stage renal disease, respiratory failure, pneumonia, and had been on dialysis. It was quickly determined that an immediate concern was that the woman had probable sepsis from her dialysis catheter. The physicians treated her with antibiotics, Levaquin and Vancomycin, but her catheter was not removed. The antibiotics seemed to be working at first inasmuch as her white blood cell count and temperature were lowered.
On July 16, 2005, the woman’s blood pressure dropped unexpectedly and she had abdominal pain. Her physicians placed her on dialysis but her pain continued and her blood pressure dropped more. Her physicians then planned to remove the catheter and planned additional testing, including a CT scan. However, by early afternoon on July 16, 2005, the woman went into cardiopulmonary arrest and died.
The plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that one of the woman’s physicians at the hospital failed to recognize the woman’s medical problems, he failed to move her to intensive care soon enough before she died, and that he should treated her with more than just antibiotics, including removal of the allegedly infected catheter, which led to septicemia and systematic inflammatory response syndrome that were the proximate cause of the woman’s death.
The Medical Malpractice Trial And Appeal
The medical malpractice jury found that the medical malpractice defendant was negligent and that his medical malpractice was the proximate cause of the woman’s injuries and her death. The medical malpractice jury awarded $200,000 in economic damages and $800,000 in noneconomic damages.
The medical malpractice defendant filed an appeal that challenged the trial judge’s instruction to the jury that an element of damages in this case was the “loss of the value of life of [the woman]” because Mississippi Code Section 11-1-69(2) states, “In any wrongful death action, there shall be no recovery for loss of enjoyment of life caused by death.” Rather, damages are limited to: (1) the present net cash value of the life expectancy of the deceased, (2) the loss of the companionship and society of the decedent, (3) the pain and suffering of the decedent between the time of injury and death, and (4) punitive damages.
The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and held, “we find that it was reversible error for the trial judge to instruct the jury that it might consider the “value of life” of the deceased in awarding damages.”
The Mississippi Supreme Court further held that the following statements made in the closing argument of the attorney for the medical malpractice plaintiff were improper and prejudicial:
“The first thing they do in a communist Nazi Country is destroy the jury system. Why do they want to destroy the jury system? Because you represent the line between tyranny and democracy, right and wrong. You have the power …. You have more power today than the President of the United States …. But the question is, will you have courage today? Do you have the God given courage ….
The value of the life of [the woman] …. I had to bring each one of the kids up here and ask them, what did your mother mean to you? What did she do with you? What did she do for you? The value of a loss.”
If you or someone you know may have been injured or suffered other harms as a result of medical malpractice in Mississippi or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of a Mississippi medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may be willing to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with Mississippi medical malpractice lawyers (or medical malpractice lawyers in your state) who may agree to assist you with your medical malpractice claim.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.