On September 7, 2012, a medical malpractice jury in Santa Fe, New Mexico returned its verdict in the amount of $2 million after five days of trial and deliberating for less than three hours, in favor of a man whose back surgery in May, 2008 resulted in the man suffering cardiac arrest 36 hours later that caused him to suffer brain damage and damage to the nerves that controlled the man’s bladder and bowel. There was also a claim by the man’s ex-wife that the injuries caused by the alleged medical malpractice by the spine surgeon resulted in a change in her husband’s personality that led to the deterioration and ultimate end of their marriage. The jury awarded the ex-wife $50,000 for her damages.
The man had a herniated disc in his back for which surgery was required at a local hospital. During the surgery, the spine surgeon negligently cut into a major artery and vein and failed to discover his mistake before completing the surgery. It wasn’t until 36 hours later that the man went into cardiac arrest and the surgeon’s negligence was discovered. The cardiac arrest resulted in the man suffering brain damage. He also had the injury to his nerves that resulted in bladder and bowel dysfunction. The man required three more surgeries to address his injuries due to the bad back surgery.
Although the plaintiff’s attorney requested that the medical malpractice jury award punitive damages due to the failure of the medical providers to note that something was wrong with the man immediately following the back surgery, the jury decided against awarding punitive damages. The jury’s verdict was not unanimous — 11 out of 12 agreed with the verdict (only 10 jurors were necessary in order to reach the verdict).
After the medical malpractice jury rendered its verdict, the brother of the man expressed his disappointment that the jury did not award punitive damages for what happened to his brother.
This New Mexico medical malpractice case is an example of why no back surgery (or any surgery) should be considered “routine.” Medical malpractice mistakes can happen at any time and under any circumstance when the medical provider makes a “mistake” or commits an “error” that causes harm to the patient. There is no doubt that the man who had back surgery in May, 2008 in New Mexico had no reason to believe that his life would be permanently and seriously harmed and changed forever due to the medical negligence of his surgeon. While the injury to the man was due to an “accident” by the surgeon, the fact that the man’s injury was unintentional does not matter to the man or his family — the surgeon’s enjoyment of his own life did not change after the man’s bad back surgery but his patient’s life was destroyed.
If you or someone you know have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice in New Mexico or in another state in the United States, your should prompt speak with a local medical malpractice attorney to learn about your rights.
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