$22.1 Million Cook County Jury Verdict for Mishandled Bleeding that Caused Brain Damage

In a tragic medical malpractice case, Jeanette Turner, who was just 42 years old, suffered permanent brain damage at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in 2006. It was alleged in the Cook County lawsuit that several doctors chose not to monitor and maintain her tracheotomy tube, which caused her injury after a blood clot lodged inside her tube cutting off her air supply.

This all started when Turner visited Mercy Hospital in February 2005 looking for treatment for a soft tissue infection in her jaw and neck. The infection caused Turner’s throat to swell so physicians surgically installed a tracheotomy tube to allow her to breathe.

Before the tracheotomy procedure, she had undergone another surgery to receive a heart valve replacement. Because of that heart surgery she had been prescribed anticoagulant Coumadin, which she would have to take for the rest of her life.

When Turner’s blood came in contact with a foreign object like the breathing tube, the anticoagulant effect was eliminated and the clotting process speeded up.

Just a few hours after the tracheotomy to install the tube, staff noted some drainage around the tube site.

Turner’s infection had almost completely healed about a week later and the doctors discussed discharging her. The discharge order was dependent on keeping her tracheotomy tube clear. But there were several instances where she had bled around the tube site; the nursing staff chose not to timely contact the doctors to address that issue.

Five days after the tube was placed, the hospital records show that Turner was experiencing minor bleeding. As blood was trickling out, Turner awoke the following morning, coughing up blood through the tracheotomy tube.

Apparently no doctor was summoned to treat this emergency. The next evening a nurse noticed the bleeding and contacted the doctor who originally placed the trach tube to address the problem.

Turner again was bleeding after the doctor left her care and the nurse called the physician back. There are no chart notes from that second visit, but it was apparent that the doctor stopped the bleeding and ordered Turner four units of fresh frozen plasma to promote clotting and stop the bleeding altogether.

The doctor then left the hospital without leaving instructions for Turner’s other attending physicians. No doctor was called to follow up or check in with her. She continued to bleed for several more hours, but the records indicate only one instance in which the nurse paged the resident physician to attend to her.

Because Turner was prescribed Coumadin, a blood thinner, she was at increased risk for bleeding, so it is possible that the blood was seeping past a cuff that wasn’t fully inflated but should have been. Eventually however, the bleeding caused Turner to go into respiratory arrest while hospital personnel were in her room. The resident physician contended that he tried to clear her airway with a self-inflating bag but encountered resistance to slight displacement of the tube and so he waited several minutes for an anesthesiologist to reposition and ventilate Turner’s breathing tube.

It was abundantly clear that Turner suffered her injury while physicians were waiting for the anesthesiologist. Because of the lack of blood flow and the brain injury, Turner suffered what was called Lance-Adams syndrome, a condition that is similar to the tremor effect of Parkinson’s disease, but that affects the muscles in charge of voluntary actions. Turner was bound to a wheelchair or bed and had difficulty speaking and would often mis-dial phone numbers.

Turner was expertly represented by Chicago attorney Scott Lane of Lane & Lane.

The jury’s verdict of $2.1 million was made up of the following damages:

• $663,860 for medical care expenses to date;
• $7,153,314 for future medical;
• $114,562 for necessary help to date;
• $179,548 for future care;
• $399,210 for lost earnings and benefits;
• $425,102 for future lost earnings and benefits;
• $500,000 for pain and suffering;
• $250,000 for future pain and suffering;
• $2.5 million for disfigurement;
• $1 million for emotional distress to date;
• $3 million for future emotional distress;
• $2 million for loss of normal life to date; and
• $4 million for future loss of normal life.

The tragedy of Jeanette Turner’s injuries is compounded by the fact that while the jury was deliberating the night after closing arguments, Turner passed away. She died before the jury’s verdict was returned. According to the report of this case and the comments made by ScottLane, the cause of death is not known. It is possible that there is some connection between a fall Turner suffered about a week before her death while she was with her caretaker.

Turner was present for most of the month-long trial and testified. Congratulations are in order for the skill in successfully presenting a difficult case by Scott Lane and his partners.

Jeanette Turner v. Mercy Hospital, No. 06 L 5913 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice cases, wrongful death cases, birth trauma cases and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Bannockburn, Berwyn, Forest Park, Melrose Park, Elmwood Park, LaGrange Park, Oak Park, Oak Brook, Brookfield, Westchester, Hillside, Berkeley, River Grove, Des Plaines, Northfield, Deerfield, Morton Grove and Oak Forest, Ill.

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