Appellate Court Overturns $15.5M Verdict
A South Florida appellate court overturned a $15.5 million verdict in favor of a plaintiff who claimed her necrotizing vasculitis was not treated properly. The condition causes inflammation in the blood vessel walls to kill healthy tissue and, if left untreated, it may cause severe skin and muscle damage and even necrosis. In this case, the plaintiff admitted herself to the hospital complaining of sores and pain on her hands and feet. She claimed that the doctor did not give her the proper medication nor transfer her to a hospital better suited to deal with the problem. As a result, she suffered permanent damage to her limbs, including the loss of multiple fingers, toes, and part of her foot. The jury who heard the case agreed that the doctor was negligent and awarded the plaintiff $15.59 million.
Appeal Centered on Jury Instruction
The judge who presided over the initial case provided a jury instruction to the jurors regarding the issue of informed consent despite the fact that the plaintiff did not argue at any time that the defendant had failed to obtain her informed consent.The appeals court ruled that this jury instruction improperly introduced an alternative theory of negligence to the jury, which would allow them to find the defendant negligent even absent a successful argument by the plaintiff. As a result, the appellate court overturned the verdict and the case will now need to be retried.
In an appeal such as this, the court must determine first if there was a procedural error during the trial. The appeals court must then make a determination as to whether or not that procedural error had an impact on the final verdict. While it’s difficult to say what, if any, impact the jury instruction had on the rendering of a decision in favor of the plaintiff, the appeals court found sufficient risk of prejudice to warrant a new trial.
In these cases, it can be very difficult for the plaintiff because they are no longer entitled to the initially awarded recovery and must endure another trial and all of the uncertainty associated therewith. In this case, through no fault of the plaintiff nor her attorney, the trial court judge committed a procedural error that could potentially impact her ability to recover damages.
What Will Happen Now?
In situations like these, exhausted plaintiffs often choose to settle for a fraction of the jury verdict. They were likely offered the opportunity to settle in lieu of allowing the defense to move forward with an appeal. Whatever that number was, it’s likely higher than what they’ll be offered now that they’ve lost the appeal and have to litigate the case from scratch. It’s a very unfortunate turn of events for a plaintiff who is likely suffering daily with a life-changing injury that was completely preventable.
Nonetheless, the rules of procedure are there for good reasons. Judges should not materially affect the outcome of cases or argue points for the plaintiffs.
Talk to a Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’ve been injured by a negligent doctor, the Tampa medical malpractice attorneys at Palmer | Lopez can help you recover damages related to your injuries. Give us a call or talk to us online to set up an appointment today.