Jury awards teen $12.6 million for medical malpractice lawsuit

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When doctors in Columbus treat a patient, a relationship of trust is formed. When a medical error is made by a trusted ally, not only is the patient’s life on the line, but an emotional injury is also inflicted. In recent news, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court jury awarded a Miramar, Florida teen $12.6 million on January 13, 2012, in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

According to court documents, the girl lost all four of her limbs because of medical malpractice. The judge will reduce the girl’s settlement by 40 percent because the jury determined her mother was 40 percent responsible for the loss of her limbs.

The girl’s attorneys say an error at the Miller School of Medicine led to the girl being given an expired vaccination, which left her vulnerable to bacterial infections. The girl had intestinal problems as a newborn, and her spleen and other organs had to be removed. The spleen filters bacteria and viruses, so the girl needed special medication to prevent infections.

The child’s mother took her to the Miller School of Medicine’s pediatric unit in October 1998 for a check-up. At the appointment, a medical assistant injected the girl with a special vaccination designed to prevent bacterial infections in people who do not have spleens, court documents show.

Because the vaccination was expired, eight months later the girl became seriously ill with a bacterial infection, her attorneys say. The infection resulted in blood clots forming in her limbs. She developed gangrene in both arms and both legs. Doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami amputated all four of her limbs above the joints, according to court records.

Attorneys for the Miller School of Medicine argued the girl would have gotten the illness even if the vaccination had not been expired. An expert testified she could have fought off the infection if her mother had given her more medication when she got sick. The expert’s testimony led to the jurors ruling the girl’s mother is 40 percent responsible.

The girl’s attorneys say they expect the University of Miami to appeal the verdict.

Source: The South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Miramar teen who lost limbs wins $12.6 mil malpractice suit,” Robert Nolin, Jan. 13, 2012.