Jury Awards $9 Million to Couple in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

A jury in a federal lawsuit in Cheyenne, Wyoming has awarded $9 million to Louis and Rebecca Prager. The suit against Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Wyoming and Dr. Brian Cullison alleged medical negligence during treatment of Mr. Prager in 2008, leading to permanent disabilities. The award may be the largest medical malpractice verdict in Wyoming history.

Prager, an oil field worker, was involved in a rollover accident on December 9, 2008, when the truck he was driving for his employer went off the road in icy conditions.. An ambulance crew immobilized him on a backboard, placed a neck brace on him, and rushed him to the emergency room at Campbell County Memorial Hospital. According to the lawsuit, despite complaints of neck pain, Cullison released Prager without examining him, taking x-rays of his neck, or providing him with a cervical collar.

Prager, 51 years old at the time, returned to the hospital four days later after losing the use of his left arm and shoulder. The hospital found multiple fractures to his cervical spine and performed emergency neck fusion surgery. The surgery prevented any further injury, but could not repair the nerve damage. He has since had a second neck fusion operation and will probably require more in the future. He has also undergone several procedures aimed at reducing his pain. He has been unable to work since the accident.

Prager’s lawsuit alleged that Cullison’s failure to diagnose his broken neck led to permanent C5 nerve root injuries, and sought to hold the doctor and the hospital liable for his expenses, pain and suffering, and future costs. Defense attorneys argued that Prager’s pain and loss of use of his arm resulted from a progressive shoulder injury, not the failure to diagnose the cervical injury. After a nine-day trial in October 2011, the jury determined that the negligence of the hospital and doctor caused Prager $7 million in damages. They awarded an additional $2 million in damages for loss of consortium to Prager’s wife, Rebecca. “Loss of consortium” damages relate to the loss of companionship and support suffered by the spouse or partner of an injured plaintiff. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, this is the largest medical malpractice award in the state’s history, beating the previous record of $1.5 million by a wide margin.

A medical malpractice claim is fundamentally a claim for negligence, with a higher standard of care imposed because of a doctor’s specialized training and larger position of trust in society. Because doctors have such a great responsibility in treating the sick and injured, the law imposes a higher duty of care than in an ordinary negligence case. Prager’s attorneys still had to prove that the doctor breached his duty of care and that this led to quantifiable injuries, but the duty of care imputed to the doctor was that of someone with specialized medical knowledge rather than an “ordinary, prudent person.”

People who have been injured due to the negligence or malpractice of a doctor or other medical professional may have rights to compensation for their injuries, and the Washington DC medical malpractice lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen can help. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights, contact the firm today through their website or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Washington DC Medical Malpractice: Surgeon’s Estate Must Pay $1M Share of Settlement, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 31, 2011
$20M Washington DC Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Over HIV Misdiagnosis Can Proceed, Says Appeals Court, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 21, 2011
Washington DC Paramedic Error Was a Factor in Fatal 2008 “Acid Reflux” Case, Reports Office of the Inspector General, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 8, 2011

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