Man Forced into Kidney Transplant Awarded $30 Million
A federal appeals court has upheld a nearly $30 million verdict in favor of a man who was forced to have a kidney transplant after being cared for by a clinic in St. Louis. The plaintiff saw a nurse practitioner after his elevated blood pressure caused him to fail a pre-employment physical. The plaintiff was then diagnosed with obesity and hypertension. During a follow-up appointment, the nurse practitioner determined that the hypertension was severe and gave him medication samples, telling him to come back in a week.
The man never took the medication and failed to come back until a second pre-employment screening determined that he again had high blood pressure. The NP gave him the same medication and told him to come back in a week. The plaintiff returned three weeks later. His blood pressure was worse and now he was also complaining of blurred vision. The NP then sent the plaintiff to the emergency room.
Nine days later, the plaintiff returned to the health clinic and the NP prescribed three different blood pressure medications but failed to order any tests. Over a series of visits, the NP labeled the patient “noncompliant” but never bothered to order tests or consult with a doctor concerning her patient’s condition. The plaintiff also says that the NP never fully explained the patient’s condition to the patient or that hypertension and high blood pressure are the same thing.
In December of 2012, the patient was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed with Stage V kidney disease. The patient began dialysis and eventually was given a new kidney.
The plaintiff asked for a bench trial and the judge awarded him $29 million. The verdict was appealed.
Analyzing the Appeal
The issue of whether or not the NP erred in her treatment of her patient boils down to what she told him. The issue here is that the plaintiff never truly understood the severity of his condition nor was he told about during his treatment. Hypertension/high blood pressure sustained over a long period of time leads to organ failure and heart damage as the heart labors to pump blood through the body. Organs don’t get enough blood and kidney failure is the result.
The appeal set forth to determine whether or not the plaintiff had any culpability in the worsening of his condition. In this case, the verdict was upheld. The question that needed to be answered was, what would a reasonable person have done in the plaintiff’s place? Since the plaintiff failed two physicals, the defense argued that he should have known about the severity of his condition. However, the three-judge panel disagreed.
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