After a six-day trial and less than two hours of jury deliberations, a Rhode Island medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff on April 29, 2015, in the amount of $25.6 million ($15 million for pain and suffering, $5.6 million for medical expenses, and $5 million for loss of consortium). This was the largest medical malpractice verdict in Rhode Island, which was increased by $5.9 million when pre-trial interest was added by the judge, bringing the total to $31.5 million.
The defendant hospital, which is the largest hospital in Rhode Island, had admitted its liability before trial (seven doctors and two nurses were allegedly negligent in their treatment of the man); therefore, the jury was instructed that it only had to decide the amount of damages to be awarded. The defendant hospital has indicated that it does not intend to appeal the verdict.
The plaintiff had hit his head and sought medical treatment at the hospital in August 2009. The hospital reportedly admitted that its medical staff had misdiagnosed the man by failing to check on him, by failing to do required examinations, by failing to communicate the man’s condition among the hospital’s medical staff, and by failing to diagnose the man’s worsening condition over a period of over 40 hours.
After the Rhode Island medical malpractice jury’s verdict was rendered, the hospital issued a statement: “Words cannot express our sorrow and regret to the patient and his family. We thank the jury for their attentiveness and service in deciding this difficult matter.”
Rhode Island Hospital was founded in 1863 as a private, not-for-profit hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. It is the principal teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, it is home to Hasbro Children’s Hospital (Rhode Island’s only facility dedicated to pediatric care), and it is a major trauma center for southeastern New England. The hospital’s website states that it “is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research.”
This Rhode Island medical malpractice case may highlight a potentially dangerous situation for most patients treated in hospitals – there is not one medical provider who is responsible for all aspects of diagnosis, care, and medical treatment. In hospital emergency departments, different and diverse staff are responsible for specific and often segmented aspects of patient care: one or more radiologists may read and interpret x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans; lab staff will run diagnostic tests, interpret, and report on blood tests and other tests; a nurse or other staff member will draw and identify blood draws from patients; certain medical specialists will perform tests and provide recommendations regarding their aspect of patient care (infectious disease doctors will address infectious disease issues; pulmonologists will address lung issues; wound care specialists will address wound issues; neurologists will address nervous system issues; orthopedic doctors will address bone issues, etc.).
Sometimes, while each specialist is practicing his area of expertise in treating a patient, no medical provider sees or addresses “the big picture” regarding the patient’s overall condition. Sometimes, if one specialist fails to properly address a medical issue within his expertise, other physicians and medical providers may fail to identify and respond to serious medical conditions for which the patient was not referred to them (for example, if a wound care specialist fails to properly treat a patient’s pressure ulcer located on his sacrum, which thereafter becomes infected, the orthopedic surgeon who repaired the patient’s fractured hip will not examine or treat the infected wound inasmuch as another specialist is assigned to address that issue and the treatment of pressure ulcers may not be his “responsibility”).
If you or a family member were injured (or worse) due to hospital medical negligence that occurred in Rhode Island or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Rhode Island medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your hospital negligence claim for you and represent you in a hospital medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.