Medical malpractice can have devastating consequences for individuals and their families. In the US, medical errors are the third leading cause of death, resulting in 250,000 deaths each year.
Not all medical mistakes lead to fatalities. Some patients experience permanent damage, severe pain, and disability.
Dealing with the aftermath of medical malpractice can be a lifelong struggle. Patients may require additional treatments that can be physically and emotionally taxing.
In this article, you will discover the biggest medical malpractice cases, reveal their impact, and emphasize the accountability of healthcare providers.
Let’s dive in.
Legal Disclaimer: The article is for informational purposes only and doesn’t provide legal advice. Contact an attorney for legal advice concerning any particular issue or problem. This article and any links do not establish an attorney-client relationship. The author's views do not represent the firm or any attorney.
Highlights of the Article
Top 10 Medical Malpractice Settlements in the USA
Medical malpractice has gained attention for its devastating effect on victims and the healthcare system. The most common types of medical malpractice include the following:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Failure to treat
- Birth injury
- Prescription drug errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Negligent failure to treat
- Defective medical devices
Between 2018 and 2021, the federal government paid $410 million in medical malpractice cases involving community health centers nationwide.
Negligence by healthcare providers can result in severe injuries, lifelong disabilities, and even death. Legal lawsuits seek personal injury compensation for damages caused by failure to meet the required level of care.
Below are some of the biggest settlements ever made in the US:
Neglect During Birth
Largest birth injury lawsuit verdict in Cook County
Accidental puncture during gynecological procedure led to gangrene and amputation of both legs
Negligent Care for Mother and Baby
Obstetrician's negligence led to infant's cerebral palsy
Fracturing Baby's Skull During Birth
Doctor's decision to continue vaginal delivery caused brain damage to the baby
Delayed Cesarean Section
Delayed cesarean section resulted in severe brain damage to the baby
Brain Damage from Asthma Attack
Brain damage sustained due to failure to transfer to a specialized hospital
Failure to diagnose and treat acute compartment syndrome, resulting in permanent injuries
Improperly Performed Surgery
Surgery to correct scoliosis led to partial paralysis and loss of bodily functions
Bad Advice from Paramedic
Delay in receiving necessary medical care resulted in brain damage and paralysis
Misdiagnosis of stroke led to brain damage and disabilities
1. $53 Million Settlement for Neglect During Birth
Lisa Ewing and her son were awarded a remarkable $53 million settlement from the University of Chicago Medical Center for medical malpractice. It was marked as the largest birth injury lawsuit verdict in Cook County.
Despite the hospital denying malpractice, the lawsuit outlined 20 medical errors doctors and nurses committed during her labor and delivery. These errors encompassed:
- Failure to monitor the health of both mother and baby
- Failure to perform a cesarean section promptly
- Failure to notice the abnormal fetal heart rate patterns
Lisa's wheelchair-bound son requires expensive care for feeding, bathing, dressing, and other daily tasks due to this malpractice. The breakdown of the $53 million settlements includes:
- Future caretaking expenses: $28.8 million
- Future medical expenses: $7.2 million
- Punitive damages: $17 million
2. $62 Million Settlement for Lost Legs
A New York jury awarded $62 million in a medical malpractice case involving the loss of legs during a gynecological procedure. Stacey Gallette sought treatment at Winthrop University Hospital for laparoscopic removal of an ectopic pregnancy.
However, during the procedure, the doctor accidentally punctured her bowel. Despite Stacey’s complaints, she was discharged. The following day, she was admitted to the hospital, experiencing the devastating effects of gangrene.
To halt the infection, doctors were forced to amputate both of her legs. Following the medical malpractice injury, Stacey could not work for a year.
In response, she filed a lawsuit against the hospital and three doctors involved in her care. Her attorney argued that the punctured colon during the procedure led to severe infections and blood poisoning.
The breakdown of her medical malpractice settlement includes:
- Past pain and suffering: $20 million
- Future pain and suffering: $38 million
- Medical expenses: $4 million
3. $74.5 Million Settlement for Negligent Care for Mother and Baby
Jennifer Blunt of California received a $74.5 million settlement for a birth injury case when her baby suffered cerebral palsy due to the obstetrician's negligence.
The obstetrician failed to perform an episiotomy, did not use forceps during the delivery, and failed to assess contractions. These critical errors led to the infant's having cerebral palsy.
Compounding the negligence, they refused to acknowledge the failure and attempted to cover up mistakes made during the delivery. Evidence was destroyed, and records were falsified to conceal errors.
It was also found during the trial that the hospital staff failed to intubate or ventilate the child properly. The settlement includes the following:
- Future medical expenses: $53 million
- Loss of future earnings: $10 million
- Past noneconomic damages for the baby: $225,000
- Future noneconomic damages for the baby: $7.5 million
- Past and future noneconomic damages for parents: $3.8 million
4. $97.4 Million Settlement for Fracturing Baby's Skull During Birth
The Kromphardt family in Iowa received a $97.4 million settlement in a medical malpractice lawsuit that damaged a baby's skull during delivery. This verdict is Iowa's largest medical malpractice award in a birth injury case.
The baby experienced fetal distress, indicating insufficient oxygen supply to the brain and signaling a cesarean section for the baby's safety. However, the doctor continued the vaginal delivery, using forceps and a vacuum extractor to pull the baby out.
During the process, the brain was fractured, causing brain damage. The baby was then diagnosed with an ischemic brain injury, seizures, facial nerve palsy, and a skull fracture with subdural hemorrhage.
The family filed a malpractice lawsuit against Mercy Hospital, the attending doctor, and OB-GYN associates. The claim breakdown includes the following:
- Future medical or care expenses: $42.2 million
- Loss of future earnings: $11.6 million
- Pain and suffering and other damages: $43.6 million
5. $101 Million Settlement for a Delayed Cesarean Section
Tequila Snow was granted a $101 million settlement for a delayed cesarean section that resulted in her baby being born with brain damage.
At 34 weeks pregnant, Snow expressed concerns to the nurses about her baby’s lack of movement. Instead of taking immediate action—like running any test, calling a doctor, or monitoring the baby’s oxygen level—the nurses made her wait 6 hours.
Tragically, the prolonged lack of oxygen caused severe brain damage to the baby. Snow’s son was unable to leave the hospital for five months.
He was subsequently placed at Misericordia Chicago, a facility that provides full-time care for the developmentally disabled. He was unable to walk or talk and required 24-hour care due to the severe impact of the brain injury.
6. $110 Million Settlement After a Woman Sustained Brain Damage from an Asthma Attack
Redish, from the Bronx, was awarded a $110 million settlement after sustaining brain damage from an asthma attack.
In 2010, the plaintiff experienced an asthma attack. Her condition worsened during her admission to the hospital.
The doctors failed to consider transferring her to another hospital equipped to handle the accumulation of CO2 in her brain. She spent 328 days in the hospital and nursing home. She was also in a wheelchair most of the time.
7. $111 Million Settlement for Misdiagnosis
The federal bureau awarded a Minnesota student a $111 million settlement after he developed acute compartment syndrome.
Anuj Thapa, 17, filed a lawsuit against St. Cloud Orthopedic Associates, alleging negligence in their failure to diagnose and treat his acute compartment syndrome.
Despite undergoing leg surgery, Anuj was discharged the following day, complaining of pain, numbness, burning, and muscle issues. It was not until six days later that he returned to the hospital and underwent surgery by a different doctor.
Due to the delayed recognition and treatment of his compartment syndrome, Mr. Thapa endured over a dozen surgeries and now lives with permanent and debilitating injuries.
The $111 million settlement covered the following:
- Past and future medical expenses: $1 million
- Past pain and suffering: $10 million
- Future pain and suffering: $100 million
8. $135 Million Settlement for Improperly Performed Surgery
Faith DeGrand, a 10-year-old girl, was awarded a $135 million settlement following a surgery that left her partially paralyzed.
DeGrand underwent routine pediatric scoliosis surgery at Children's Hospital in Michigan, where rods and screws were placed in her back to help strengthen her spine. Unfortunately, her surgeon incorrectly placed the hardware compressing her spinal cord.
After the surgery, the young girl experienced excruciating pain, paralysis of her arms and legs, and loss of bowel and bladder control. She became reliant on a catheter, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to walk.
Ten days later, another surgeon realized the incorrect placement and removed the surgical devices. However, the damage has taken an irreversible toll. Faith's life was forever changed due to medical malpractice.
9. $172 Million Settlement After Receiving Bad Advice from Paramedic
Tiffany Applewhite faced devastating consequences after receiving bad advice from a paramedic, leading to a life-altering situation. The 12-year-old girl experienced anaphylactic shock after a home nurse administered a steroid injection to treat an eye infection.
The Fire Department's medics responded to her mother's 911 call but could not treat Tiffany's condition. They lacked the necessary life support equipment for the victim.
They advised her mother to wait for another ambulance with the needed equipment. After a 20-minute delay, the ambulance with the equipment finally arrived, providing her with the care she urgently needed and bringing her to the hospital.
Due to the extended wait, she suffered severe brain damage and paralysis, including the inability to walk, talk, and care for herself.
Because of the seriousness of the injury and its profound effect on Tiffany's life, she was granted a $172 million settlement. This settlement represents the largest of its kind in New York City.
10. $216.7 Million Settlement for Misdiagnosis
A man in Tampa, Florida, stayed in a coma for three months and was awarded a $216.7 million settlement for misdiagnosis.
Allan Navaro’s doctors at Tampa University Community Hospital failed to recognize stroke symptoms and misdiagnosed him as having a sinus infection. They sent him home with a painkiller prescription.
Navaro returned with more severe signs the following day, and by the afternoon, he needed emergency surgery for brain swelling.
The incident left Navaro with brain damage and disabilities, confining him to a wheelchair and putting him at risk of suffocation every time he swallows food. Further investigation revealed that an unlicensed physician’s assistant conducted the initial examination of Navaro.
Navaro’s settlement was the third-largest medical malpractice settlement in the US. The breakdown of the settlement includes the following:
- Punitive damages: $100.1 million
- Compensatory damages: $116.6 million
What Factors Contribute to a Large Settlement in a Medical Malpractice Case?
The average settlement award for medical malpractice from 2016 to 2020 was $437,040. The amount can vary significantly depending on various factors, including:
The Severity of the Injury
More severe injuries result in higher compensation. Birth injuries and surgical errors are some examples of malpractice injuries that are considered severe.
Medical expenses, both past and future, impact the settlement amount. Medical expenses include:
- Ongoing medical care
- Future costs of care
Lost Wages and Future Earning Capacity
If the victim experiences a loss of income or is incapable of working in the future because of the injury, it can greatly affect the settlement amount.
Pain and Suffering
The settlement can include the victim's suffering from both physical and emotional pain due to the malpractice.
Strength of Evidence
The evidence supporting the claim can also impact the settlement amount, including:
- Evidence of physical injury
- Medical records
- Expert opinions
- Witness testimony
- Healthcare policies and regulations
- Incorrect prescriptions
- Records of damages
- Video evidence
- Evidence that speaks for itself
The laws and regulations of the jurisdiction where the case is filed can also influence the amount of medical malpractice settlements. Some of the states in the US place a cap on malpractice damages.
How to Get the Best Medical Malpractice Settlement Possible?
Taking specific actions in a medical malpractice claim is vital to increasing your chances of getting the best settlement possible. Here are some of the critical steps to take:
- Document and preserve evidence, including medical records and physical evidence.
- Consult with medical experts to strengthen your case and support the extent of the harm caused.
- Calculate damage accurately, considering medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future care needs.
- Understand the laws and time limitations specific to the medical malpractice committed.
- Hire a personal injury lawyer specializing in medical malpractice to navigate the legal complexities and advocate for your rights.
A skilled lawyer can help you get the best medical malpractice settlement. Lawyers often work on a contingency fee basis but some also bill per hour.
It means they only get paid if they win the case. In return, US lawyers receive a percentage of the settlement amount as their professional fees.
The Bottom Line
Medical malpractice settlements highlight the seriousness of the problem and the quest for fairness. They emphasize how injuries significantly affect patients’ lives and the importance of holding healthcare professionals responsible.
To obtain fair compensation, the expertise of a personal injury attorney is essential. They have the knowledge and expertise to navigate complex legal landscapes, advocate for your rights, and secure maximum compensation.