University settles hospital negligence lawsuit for $10 million

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on May 01, 2012 in Medical Malpractice

Many of the medical malpractice-related cases and news stories we've written about on this blog do not directly involve doctors or hospitals in West Virginia. While it's a good thing there aren't enough local stories about these topics to limit our weekly discussions solely to cases that happen here -- it's also important to remember that virtually everything we do write about can happen or has happened in this state too.

Today again, we'd like to draw your attention to a non-local story about wrongful death and a hospital negligence lawsuit that was recently settled for $10 million -- nearly 500 miles away from our Charleston law offices.

The story itself began last year when a well known, 53-year-old Chicago area businessman went to the University of Chicago medical center for a routine dialysis procedure but died a short time later. Autopsy reports indicate the primary cause of death was a fatal air embolism created when medical center staff removed the man's catheter, with pneumonia and stomach cancer listed as secondary causes.

Although the settlement agreement did not require the university to fault or negligence, one Chicago area medical malpractice lawyer called what happened here an example of the negligence-based principle known as "res ipsa loquitur." In essence, a res ipsa loquitur claim asserts that a harmful event's occurrence, in and of itself, is sufficient to establish the negligence of a particular defendant.

For example, suppose you are driving past a factory that manufactures wrecking balls when a wrecking ball suddenly rolls across the road and hits your car. You are severely injured but can find no direct evidence that the factory owner or employees did something that would constitute negligence. In a situation like this, you would file a lawsuit asserting a res ipsa loquitur claim against the factory owner and would probably win.

Medical malpractice cases where this type of claim is asserted usually involve a foreign object being left in a patient's body after surgery. In those instances, the negligence speaks for itself leaving only the issue of damages to be resolved.

Source: NBC Chicago, "U of C Agrees to $10 Million Settlement in James Tyree Death," April 23, 2012

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