During the Summer of 2020, U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny had awarded $2.1 million in a federal medical malpractice lawsuit involving the Buffalo VA Medical Center, for the death of 64-year-old Howard Southard, who was a veteran of the United States Army. The Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuit filed against the United States by the veteran’s sister alleged that VA doctors had improperly installed a stent graft in one of Southard’s arteries during surgery, causing an irreparable loss of blood flow to his kidneys and eventually leading to his death.
Judge Skretny had calculated the amount he awarded for Southard’s conscious pain and suffering based on 58 days of the 118 days that he was in the Buffalo VA Medical Center. The Judge based his pain and suffering award on the number of days that the medical records indicated Southard exhibited pain or discomfort, when he was agitated, or when he was undergoing surgical procedures under anesthesia. The Judge did not award damages for pain and suffering for those days when Southard was alert and did not exhibit pain, according to the medical records.
The plaintiff objected to the Judge’s calculation of the pain and suffering portion of the award and requested a new trial or an amended judgment, arguing that the Judge failed to consider that Southard endured 50 procedures during his hospitalization, the painful bedsores Southard had for the last two months of his life, and that Southard was unable to drink or eat on his own for the entire time he was in the hospital. The plaintiff also pointed to Southard’s mental anguish that he experienced for the entire 118-day hospitalization in support of her request that the amount of the conscious pain and suffering award be recalculated and increased.
Reconsidering his prior award for pain and suffering, Judge Skretny wrote “Mr. Southard suffered during the 60 days he was noted as being alert and not in pain in the medication record and during his final days in palliative care … Reasons exist for this court to re-examine its findings about the duration of Mr. Southard’s pain and suffering. Substantial justice requires that plaintiff receive a full recovery for her reasonable damages for Mr. Southard’s pain and suffering to avoid manifest injustice.” Judge Skretny found that Southard endured conscious pain and suffering during his entire 118-day hospital stay and therefore amended his pain and suffering award on March 31, 2021, from $1.74 million to $3.54 million.
If you or a loved one suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice involving a VA medical facility, you should promptly find a federal medical malpractice lawyer (Federal Tort Claims Act lawyer) who may investigate your VA medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a Federal Tort Claims Act medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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