After a five-day South Carolina medical malpractice wrongful death trial, the jury returned its verdict in the amount of $3,500,250 against the defendant medical practice that employed the two defendant physicians (the two defendant physicians were found not liable by the jury) for the wrongful death of a 26-year-old patient who drowned himself thirty minutes after being released from the hospital. The man had been brought to the hospital by his father around 4:00 p.m. on October 2, 2015 because he was experiencing a sudden onset acute psychotic episode during which he was seeing things that were not there.
The defendant attending physician ordered a psychiatric consultation, which was never performed. The patient’s father left the hospital late at night to get some sleep and to gather toiletries and clothes. Early the following morning, the patient experienced an outburst during which he was yelling and screaming, believing that he was fighting demons, and acting aggressively toward the hospital staff. The other defendant physician allowed the young man to leave the hospital, during Hurricane Joaquin, without first contacting the patient’s father, believing that HIPAA precluded her from contacting the father.
Thirty minutes after he was released from the hospital, the man drowned himself in the Atlantic Ocean.
The parents’ South Carolina medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the defendant medical practice, which employed both defendant physicians, had failed to properly instruct its employees regarding allowable disclosure of patient information when it is in the best interest of the patient and/or for public safety. The lawsuit alleged that the materials that the defendant medical practice provided to its physicians failed to mention or otherwise educate its physicians on situations or circumstances where patient information can and should be disclosed to family members for the best interest of the patient and/or for public safety concerns.
The family’s South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer stated, “There’s very clear rules about when patient information should be disclosed. It could’ve been worse. He could’ve hurt someone else.” The lawyer stated after the verdict, “It is the verdict we were hoping for. Her employer had not taken appropriate efforts to train her. Employers need to make sure their physicians and nurses know these things. A phone call alone could’ve prevented this terrible outcome.”
The South Carolina medical malpractice jury determined that the defendant medical practice had acted in a recklessness manner, which means that the verdict is not capped. Because the jury specifically found that recklessness had been proven by clear and convincing evidence, a punitive damages award is allowable.
If you or a loved one may have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical malpractice in South Carolina or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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