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Once again, the premier hospital in my hometown of Pittsburgh is finding itself in trouble. Late last week, a jury returned a $10 million verdict against University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), an amount that is in addition to a $2.5 million jury verdict from 2008 involving the same case. Together, the $12.5 million award is thought to be one of the area’s largest ever.

The case involved a young man with a bright future who went to a UPMC-affiliated hospital with severe headaches in 2003. Thinking the patient had a brain tumor, doctors scheduled a surgery for four days after he checked himself in. The day before the surgery, the patient’s condition deteriorated rapidly. It became apparent that he had an aggressive brain abscess rather than cancer, and by the time surgery was performed it was too late. Hospital staff gave conflicting reports about exactly what information each of the patient’s doctors communicated to other care providers. According to some observers, this clear failure to adequately communicate significant findings among the providers resulted in a strong case for the plaintiff.

In general, medical malpractice claims can be difficult to prove. In cases where medical providers have made a clear error, however, juries appear willing to send a clear message in response.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for jc

    $12.5 million is a heck of a lot of money. I can see how a brain tumor can look like an abscess and vice versa. Typically, plaintiff's attorneys take 40% off the top, so I suppose the plaintiff's attorney walked away with a cool $5 million. Not bad work if you can get it.

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