Earlier this month, an Indiana medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of a widow whose husband died as a result of an overdose of morphine while he was recovering from surgery in an Indiana hospital. The jury took two and a half hours of deliberations to return its verdict regarding the 45-year-old man’s death that occurred in December 2006.
Because of Indiana’s cap on damages in medical malpractice cases, the jury’s verdict will be reduced to $1.25 million, by operation of law.
The man had undergone surgery to remove a metal plate in his spine that had been implanted during an earlier surgery and which had perforated his esophagus. Post-surgery and while in the hospital, the man was placed on a morphine pump that allowed him to self-administer morphine as he required, within limits set in the morphine pump.
During the night of December 19, 2006, the man was found unresponsive in his hospital room. The hospital medical staff administered medication to reverse the effects of the morphine, but the Narcan failed to reverse the effects of the narcotic that affected his breathing.
An autopsy revealed that the man had four times the average dose of morphine in his body at the time of his death. The man’s death certificate listed pulmonary congestion and emphysema as the cause of his death but the death certificate also stated that the hospital had dispensed medications that contributed to the man’s death.
Following hospital protocol, the morphine pump used by the man was cleaned, the data maintained in the morphine pump was not downloaded, and the data in the pump was erased immediately after the man’s death.
The plaintiff’s Indiana medical malpractice lawyer successfully argued that the defendant hospital had engaged in spoliation of evidence by cleaning and erasing the morphine pump’s data that would have been relevant to the cause of the man’s death and the plaintiff’s medical malpractice claims. A judge entered an order in 2014 that allowed the plaintiff’s attorney to argue spoliation of evidence during the Indiana medical malpractice trial, finding that the strongest evidence that the morphine pump data erased by the defendant hospital might have contained evidence of a morphine overdose was the fact that the Narcan administered to the man to reverse the effects of morphine was not effective.
The defendant hospital argued to the Indiana medical malpractice jury that it had done nothing wrong and that no one knows the cause of the man’s death, denying that it was related to the morphine pump. The defendant hospital reportedly has not changed its protocols and procedures regarding morphine pumps even after the man’s death and the plaintiff’s Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit.
The plaintiff and her husband had been married for six years. The man had six children of his own and assisted in raising his wife’s children.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury (or worse) due to hospital malpractice in Indiana or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a hospital malpractice lawyer in Indiana or a hospital malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your hospital malpractice claim for you and represent you in a hospital medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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