CHICAGO – CHICAGO – A U.S. Magistrate Judge has awarded $6.2 million in damages to a 61 year-old man left permanently disabled following a procedure at the Hines Veterans Administration Medical Center.
The client was a patient at Hines in May, 2015, scheduled for cardiac bypass surgery. Just before the scheduled operation was to begin, two VA doctors inserted a “central line” catheter into his internal jugular vein, penetrating the rear wall of the vein and perforating the wall of his right vertebral artery. Due to the injury to the artery, hospital staff postponed his surgery for a week. Following the procedures performed to repair the perforated artery and the postponed bypass surgery, he was left with severe and permanent cognitive injuries, which have caused him to require round-the-clock care and virtually destroyed the quality of life he’d hoped to enjoy in his early years of retirement.
Levin & Perconti attorneys AJ Thut and Daniel Goldfaden brought suit on behalf of the patient and, in a bench trial held before US Magistrate Judge Gabriel A. Fuentes in January, argued that the two doctors involved in the catheterization procedure – one a resident on her first day of the job and the other tasked with supervising her – had failed to meet the standard of care for preparing him for surgery, setting in motion the cascade of events that led to his present disability.
In their brief seeking an award of damages for the injured party, the attorneys sought payment of his past and future medical expenses, along with compensation for both his “past and future disability/loss of a normal life” and his “pain, suffering, and emotional distress.”
In a passage quoted by the Judge in his ruling, they noted, “Since May 2015, there is not a single pleasurable or unpleasurable aspect of life that [the client] has been able to pursue or experience. He cannot have a normal relationship with anyone, he cannot socialize with anyone. He cannot date, he cannot form a relationship with a significant other, and he cannot experience the joys, feelings, and physical and emotional connections that two people share in their golden years. He cannot go out to a restaurant, he cannot attend parties with family and friends, and he cannot pursue normal hobbies like lifting weights or physical fitness. He should have been able to do all of these things, and then some, during his retirement.”
“The Court’s verdict is bittersweet,” said Partner AJ Thut of Levin & Perconti. “It will not fix our client’s life-altering injuries and it will not restore his ability to care for himself, think for himself or communicate with others. He deserved to live his remaining years of life on his terms, and those freedoms were taken away from him. While his injuries cannot be undone, we are proud that the Court recognized how valuable those freedoms are.”
Attorney Daniel Goldfaden emphasized that their client deserved better after serving his country. “He was a veteran, and he made an agreement with the government that he would receive quality medical care in exchange for his service,” he said. “The government didn’t honor that agreement and our hope is that this verdict encourages improvements in the quality of veteran healthcare across the country.”
In making their decision, previous Levin & Perconti verdicts were referenced. “A remarkable thing about the Court’s conclusion is that in using cases for comparison to this one and past verdicts, the Court used two previous Levin & Perconti cases that were successfully tried,” said Partner Margaret Battersby Black. The Court acknowledged that the firm’s verdicts in the previous cases were high, but still found them a meaningful comparator.