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Sandy Grinnell, Staff Contributor
Sandy Grinnell, Staff Contributor
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Appeals Court Upholds Medical Malpractice Award

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The California 2nd Disctrict Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a lower court which awarded a County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center patient $150,000 in pain and suffering.

Although the California medical malpractice awards caps are $250,000, a 28 year-old male patient of Harbor-UCLA hospital was awarded $150,000 for the pain and suffering he sustained due to complications from an emergency appendectomy. For the initial surgery, the patient was hospitalized for 2 days. After being readmitted on the third day, the patient was in the hospital for a approximately of 6 weeks.

Before being released, the patient complained of excessive pain but released anyway. What happened over the next 6 weeks can only be described as unbelievable:

He returned to the emergency room around 8 or 9 p.m. complaining of intense pain and bloating. At 3 a.m., he was diagnosed with a small bowel obstruction and was readmitted.

A few hours later, a CAT scan was performed, but the results were not reviewed for six hours, the opinion states. They showed an intestinal obstruction, distension of the bowel and free air in the upper abdomen.

The patient was placed on observation, and then a second surgery was performed Aug. 29 – nearly 55 hours after he returned to the hospital.

His abdomen was so swollen that the incision was left open and covered by sterile bandages.

To keep him from scratching at the open wound, he was placed in restraints and put in a coma for six weeks during which he suffered from a severe infection, septic shock and respiratory failure.

He had a tracheotomy, was put on a ventilator and had an arterial line inserted in his wrist, which cut off the circulation to two of his fingers, causing gangrene. The tips had to be amputated.

He was released in Oct. 14, 2003, and sued the hospital for medical malpractice.

The Appeals Court agreed with the jury and found the hospital negligent in releasing the patient too soon, and waited too long to treat him upon his return to the hospital, and added that the hospital “fell below the standard of care.” Although the patient’s attorney was disappointed that the jury did not award the full $250,000 available under the law to his client, he was greatful that the hospital was held accountable for their negligence.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.