Case Results

The Arizona Attorney, published monthly by the Arizona State Bar, reports annually on the top ten civil jury verdicts in the State during the prior calendar year. In our quest to help people who have been wrongfully harmed and hold others accountable for their negligence, our attorneys have achieved top ten verdicts in Arizona in two of the last four years. Below are summaries of those two cases:

Maricopa County Jury Returns $5.875 million Verdict in Medical Negligence Case

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - Shawn Cunningham, Joseph D'Aguanno, and their hard-working team at Harris Powers & Cunningham obtained a $5.875 million verdict in a medical malpractice wrongful death case. The Maricopa County jury determined that the untimely passing of a 32-year-old wife and stay-at-home mother of two young children would not have happened but for a series of serious omissions on the part of her health care providers. The jury deliberated for six hours following a two-and-a half week trial.

The general facts are:

On the morning of March 17, 2008, the patient was rushed by ambulance to a local Emergency Department (ED) with severe abdominal pain, bloody stool, and a history of Crohn's disease. The ED physician evaluated her and ordered a stat CT scan around 8:50 a.m. Around 11:30 a.m., the ED physician learned that the only CT tech on shift fell ill and the stat CT could not be done until the next shift, scheduled for 5 p.m. The patient's condition continued to worsen and, around 1 p.m., the ED physician decided to have a hospitalist admit the patient to the hospital. Life-threatening surgical issues should have been high on the differential, but neither the ED physician nor the hospitalist called the on call surgeon because they believed he would not see the patient without a CT scan.

Despite receiving pain medication, the patient was in agony. Her condition continued to decline. The CT was not completed until 6:25 p.m. and the results were not communicated to the hospitalist until 7:15 p.m. With the results in hand, the hospitalist contacted the on call surgeon for an urgent, stat, surgical consult. The surgeon ordered conservative therapy and advised he would see the patient in the morning. In response, because of the grave nature of the patient's condition, the hospitalist pleaded with the surgeon to come in. The surgeon abruptly hung up. Even a call from the hospital's CEO failed to get the surgeon in that night. The surgeon did not come in and perform surgery until the following morning, but it was too late. The patient was in septic shock and the beginning stages of multi-organ failure. She died on March 19, 2008.

The near unanimous jury verdict made it clear that the health care providers needlessly endangered their patient by failing to comply with simple safety principles -- one of which requires physicians to timely diagnose and treat a potentially life-threatening surgical condition. The inability to perform a stat CT scan did not relieve the health care providers of their obligation to protect their patient. The untimely death of this woman -- who was a wife, mother, and child -- could have been avoided with a simple phone call to the surgeon when the stat CT scan became unavailable or by obtaining an alternative imaging study. The culture at this hospital prevented the health care providers from considering these simple, potentially life-saving alternatives. The omissions of the health care providers put all patients at risk and the jury's verdict made it clear that such omissions are not acceptable.

The health care providers committed medical malpractice and the jury apportioned 40% of the fault to the on call surgeon, 30% to the hospital, 25% to the hospitalist, and 5% to the ED physician.

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Maricopa County Jury Returned $4.25 Million Verdict in Medical Negligence Case

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - Frank Powers and the Harris Powers & Cunningham team obtained a $4.25 million dollar verdict in a medical malpractice injury case. The jury found that the negligent placement and failure to remove a two-foot guidewire from an artery resulted in serious and permanent vascular and nerve injuries.

The general facts are:

After being severely burned, the patient was treated at a local medical center's burn unit. During the treatment, a guidewire was used to place a central line catheter in the patient's vein. The doctor mistakenly placed the wire in an artery instead of a vein. Recognizing the problem, the doctor decided to put in a different line. After the new line was put in, the doctor and the nurse could not find the wire that was mistakenly put in an artery. The doctor and nurse concluded it was thrown away, apparently not realizing they lost the wire inside the patient. Neither the doctor nor the nurse told anyone about the lost wire. The guidewire was later seen on a CT scan. By that time, the wire had caused damage.

The Plaintiff also alleged that the radiologists failed to report viewing the guidewire on multiple x-rays that were done soon after the wire was lost. The resultant loss of a major leg artery and nerve damage has caused permanent weakness and chronic pain which requires the daily use of narcotic pain medication. The Plaintiff suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and an increased risk of losing his leg by amputation.

The radiology group argued that the radiologists were never asked to look for a guidewire. The Hospital argued that it did not cause the guidewire to be imbedded, and felt the burn injuries caused the Plaintiff's leg pain and psychological symptoms.

After trial, the jury deliberated and returned its verdict as follows: Plaintiff to recover $3,675,000; his wife to recover $500,000, and each of his three children to recover $25,000. The jury felt the Hospital was 99% at fault and the radiology group 1% at fault.

Following the trial, the Hospital appealed the verdict. The case is still pending in the Arizona Court of Appeals.

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$6.3 million verdict against Banner Health

$6.3 million dollar verdict against Banner Health for the negligence of its Emergency Department physicians for failing to diagnose and treat the patient's vertebral artery dissection. Shortly after Banner discharged the patient, he suffered a disabling stroke. As a result, the 39 year-old man was totally disabled.

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Examples of our other case results

The following are examples of results, through settlement or trial, from past cases. These results are not intended to reflect guaranteed results for any future cases. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits. The results are offered for informational purposes only and reflect the Plaintiff's allegations in the case.

RESULT

PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS IN CASE

$ 9,750,000

Failure to diagnose and treat infant resulting in permanent injuries to infant

$ 537,000

Elderly man died following forced catheterization; survived by 3 adult children

$ 625,000

Improper podiatric surgery on female patient resulting in permanent injuries

$ 500,000

Podiatry surgery resulting in foot drop and chronic pain following worker's compensation injury to male patient

$ 5,875,000

Wrongful death of young mother with 2 minor children due to multiple delays in providing timely surgical treatment

$ 600,000

Wrongful death of adult male following trucking accident; survived by wife, child and parent

$ 1,775,000

Delay in treating small bowel obstruction resulted in permanent injury to female patient

$ 5,000,000

Head-on collision with drunk driver resulting in brain injury

$ 700,000

Wrongful death of adult male after fall in hospital; survived by spouse and 6 adult children

$ 1,200,000

Permanent injuries, including chronic pain, to young adult male motorcycle driver

$ 1,078,973

Adult female died while in hospital; survived by spouse and 2 adult children

$ 275,000

Failure to diagnose and treat melanoma resulting in spreading of cancer

$ 4,250,000

Permanent injuries to adult male in hospital after guidewire left in artery following CT scan

$ 1,150,000

Wrongful death of adult woman due to delay in treatment of bowel infarction; survived by husband

$ 700,000

Death by suicide after discharge from an ER; survived by 4 children, 2 were minors

$ 1,000,000

Wrongful death of young mother due to delayed diagnosis; survived by spouse, parents and 2 minor children

$ 800,000

Wrongful death due to failure to diagnose and treat cardiac symptoms of adult male; survived by mother, spouse and 3 adult children

$ 500,000

Adult male suffers from foot drop due to improper hip surgery

$ 2,000,000

Adult male died following trucking accident leaving 3 adult children

$ 500,000

Wrongful death of older adult male following parathyroid surgery due to improper follow up care; survived by wife and 9 children

$ 3,234,253

Wrongful death of young mother due to delay in diagnosis and treatment of surgical abdomen; survived by spouse, parents and 2 minor children

$ 1,050,000

Brain damage in an infant as a result of failure to appropriately treat mother during labor and delivery

$ 566,000

Young woman died due to respiratory suppression from anesthesia and pain medication during outpatient surgery

$ 545,000

Wrongful death of adult female during placement of pacemaker

$ 2,000,000

Adult woman died following outpatient surgery due to overdose on pain medication; survived by father

$ 745,000

Rollover accident causing spinal injury resulting in paraplegia

$ 625,000

Negligent cardiac ablation damaging phrenic nerve and sinus node resulting in permanent injury to adult female

$2,025,000

Permanent and disabling injuries of adult woman due to failure to diagnose stroke

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