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Government — Municipalities — Medical Malpractice — Nurse — Government — Emergency Response — Worker/Workplace Negligence — Ambulance/Emergency Medical Services
Paramedics’ inaction led to damage of girl’s brain, suit alleged
AMOUNT $172,381,728
TYPE Verdict-Plaintiff
CASE Applewhite v. AccuHealth Inc. VENUE Bronx County
JUDGE Alison Y. Tuitt
DATE May 28, 2014
TYPE(S) brain - brain damage
other - seizure, anaphylactic shock
cardiac - cardiopulmonary/respiratory arrest sensory/speech - speech/language, impairment of pulmonary/respiratory - anoxia paralysis/quadriplegia - paralysis
ATTORNEY(S) Thomas A. Moore; Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore;
New York, NY
EXPERT(S) Les Seplaki Ph.D.; Economics; New Brunswick, NJ
Kevin Brown M.D.; Emergency Medicine; Carmel, NY
Joseph Carfi M.D.; Physical Rehabilitation; New Hyde Park, NY Richard Lechtenberg M.D.; Neurology; Brooklyn, NY
LENGTH 15 days
COMPOSITION 5 male/ 1 female
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS On Feb. 21, 1998, plaintiff Tiffany Applewhite, 12, underwent intravenous administration of a corticosteroid, methylprednisolone. The medication was administered by a nurse, Linda Russo, who was visiting Tiffany’s residence, which was located in the Bronx. The medication was intended to address chronic inflammation of Tiffany’s eyes, but it did not produce the intended result. Tiffany developed immediate impairment of her respiration. She also experienced a seizure.
Tiffany’s mother, Samantha Applewhite, summoned an ambulance. Paramedics arrived after six minutes had passed, and they noted that Tiffany was experiencing cardiopulmonary arrest. The paramedics did not possess equipment that would have allowed proper treatment of Tiffany’s condition, so they summoned another ambulance. Samantha Applewhite believed that her daughter required immediate treatment, and she suggested that Tiffany could be transported to a nearby hospital, but the paramedics contended that another ambulance would promptly arrive.
After 20 minutes had passed, another ambulance arrived. Tiffany was resuscitated, and she received an injection of epinephrine, which counteracted the medication that Russo had administered. Tiffany was transported to a hospital, where doctors determined that she was suffering permanent residual damage of her brain. Tiffany is paralyzed, and she cannot speak.
Samantha Applewhite, acting individually and as Tiffany’s parent and natural guardian, sued Russo; Russo’s employer, AccuHealth Inc.; and the paramedics’ employers, the city of New York and the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. The plaintiffs alleged that Russo failed to properly treat Tiffany, that Russo’s failure constituted malpractice, that AccuHealth was vicariously liable for Russo’s
actions, that AccuHealth negligently failed to properly support Russo, that the paramedics negligently failed to properly address Tiffany’s condition, and that the city of New York and the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services were vicariously liable for the paramedics’ actions.
The plaintiffs and Russo negotiated a pretrial settlement. Terms were not disclosed. Plaintiffs’ counsel discontinued the claims against AccuHealth, which had declared bankruptcy. The matter proceeded to a trial against the city of New York and the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.
Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Tiffany was not properly and timely treated by the first team of paramedics. He claimed that the paramedics did not bring a defibrillator, oxygen or other equipment that could have provided advanced support.
Plaintiffs’ counsel also claimed that the paramedics unnecessarily delayed Tiffany’s treatment. He contended that Tiffany’s permanent injury could have been averted via prompt transportation to a hospital, but that the paramedics incorrectly elected to await the arrival of another ambulance. Samantha Applewhite claimed that she expressed that she did not want to wait until a second ambulance arrived, but that the paramedics assured that waiting was the best course of action. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the paramedics’ assurances constituted an assumption of a duty of care, and he contended that the defendants were liable for the paramedics’ failure to adequately perform that duty.
The defense’s expert nurse opined that Tiffany’s injury was a result of Russo’s failure to properly address Tiffany’s reaction to the corticosteroid that was administered. The defense’s expert neurologist opined that the paramedics could not have reversed the injury’s effects.
INJURIES/DAMAGES Tiffany suffered anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic response. She experienced resultant impairment of her respiration, a seizure, anaphylactic shock and cardiopulmonary arrest. She was resuscitated after 20 minutes had passed, but she had sustained permanent anoxic damage of her brain. Her legs are paralyzed, and she cannot speak. The plaintiffs’ expert neurologist opined that Tiffany’s awareness and consciousness are fully intact.
Tiffany requires constant assistance and supervision. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Tiffany’s residence will require modifications that will accommodate Tiffany’s disabilities. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Tiffany’s life will span 53 additional years.
Tiffany’s mother sought recovery of $99,977,555 for Tiffany’s future medical expenses, $476,017 for modifications of Tiffany’s residence, $349,261 for Tiffany’s past lost earnings, $6,258,895 for Tiffany’s future lost earnings, $25 million for Tiffany’s past pain and suffering, and $40 million for Tiffany’s future pain and suffering. She also sought recovery of $320,000 for loss of household services.
The defense’s expert neurologist opined that Tiffany is not aware of her condition or surroundings. He also estimated that Tiffany’s life will span 10 additional years.
RESULT The jury found that the defendants were liable for Tiffany’s permanent injury. It determined that the injury was a result of Samantha Applewhite’s justifiable reliance upon assurances that paramedics provided. The jury determined that the plaintiffs’ dam- ages totaled $172,381,728.
$320,000 Personal Injury: loss of household services
$99,977,555 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost $349,261 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability $6,258,895 Personal Injury: FutureLostEarningsCapability $25,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering $40,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering $476,017 Personal Injury: cost of modification of residence
EDITOR’S COMMENT This report is based on information that was provided by plain- tiffs’ counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents and an article that was published by The New York Times. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.
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