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Rhode Island jury awards $61.6 million in damages for leg amputation caused by failure to administer anticoagulant

Elder amputee alone in the park

In December 2010, Peter Sfameni began experiencing lower back pain, fatigue, and weight loss. He sought help at the emergency room of the Rhode Island Hospital. He was then admitted for a pre-planned lymph-node biopsy.

Prior to arriving at the hospital, he had already been taking prescribed blood thinners but stopped as instructed by his doctors in preparation for a colonoscopy. Instead of conducting the lymph-node biopsy as planned, his doctors performed a bone marrow biopsy. They then instructed Mr. Sfameni to stay off blood thinners before discharging him.

Mr. Sfameni soon developed blood clots in his right leg, prompting his doctors to prescribe anticoagulants. Notwithstanding, his leg developed severe gangrene. To stop the life-threatening spread, the leg was amputated above the knee.

Mr. Sfameni then sued his doctors and the hospital for medical malpractice. After considering expert testimony, the jury agreed that the defendants in the case violated established medical practice by failing to prescribe Lovenox, an anticoagulant, sooner. Had they done so, the expert argued that the blood clots would have been resolved, the gangrene prevented, and Mr. Sfameni’s leg saved.

In addition to the loss of his leg, Mr. Sfameni complained of phantom pain, anxiety, depression, immobility, isolation, loss of independence, and embarrassment for his disabled appearance. Ultimately, the jury held the defendants jointly and severally liable for a judgment of $61,606,575.

What Defines the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases?

As Mr. Sfameni’s case illustrates, the stakes are sometimes very high when it comes to treating illnesses and injuries. No wonder it takes between 10 and 14 years to become licensed as a doctor. In legal terms, this is the amount of time it takes to teach the “standard of care” in the medical profession.

However, defining the standard of care in a courtroom is notoriously difficult, not least because most lawyers are not trained doctors. To account for this difficulty, the law provides a very open-ended definition that leaves plenty of room to argue about what the standard actually is on a case-by-case basis. For example, consider the following definitions adopted in Virginia and Maryland:

Virginia – The standard of care “shall be that degree of skill and diligence practiced by a reasonably prudent practitioner in the field of practice or specialty . . . and the testimony of an expert witness . . . provided, however, that the standard of care in the locality . . . is more appropriate than a statewide standard.”

Maryland – The standard of care shall be “the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action.”

In light of these definitions, when bringing a medical malpractice claim, it is very important to have a skilled attorney in your corner that (1) understands the medical standards in your case and (2) can compellingly communicate those standards to a jury. As a trained doctor and lawyer, Dr. Michael M. Wilson can do both.

What Compensation is Available in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

When visiting clinics and hospitals, we entrust the professionals inside with our health and, in many cases, our lives. When they screw up, these professionals and their institutions may face serious liability. In a medical malpractice case, a jury may award compensation for things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Permanent disfigurement and disability
  • Aggravation of a previous disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Wrongful death

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Washington, DC?

Yes. The statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington, DC is three years. At first glance, three years may seem like a long time. However, to properly prepare for your lawsuit, much research, interviewing of witnesses, doctors, etc., must be done. All of this takes time. Also, the sooner the case is filed, the less chance there is for evidence to “vanish”. So, time IS of the essence. If you believe you have a valid medical malpractice claim, do not delay, contact us today!

Consult With a Medical Malpractice Attorney

The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates specialize in helping victims of medical malpractice secure maximum legal compensation. As a physician and attorney, Dr. Wilson is uniquely qualified to handle medical malpractice cases. Let him and his team handle yours. Call today for a free consultation.

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