SW Ind. jury sides with couple in malpractice suit

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A southwestern Indiana jury has sided with an Evansville couple who accused a local hospital and a doctor of causing their 9-year-old daughter’s severe brain injury and cerebral palsy.

The Vanderburgh Circuit Court jury ordered St. Mary’s Medical Center and Dr. Mureena Turnquest-Wells to pay a $15 million medical malpractice award to Jamie and Crystal Bobbitt.

Attorney Terry Noffsinger said the hospital could appeal the verdict and that Indiana law caps medical malpractice awards at $1.25 million. A successful appeal would leave the Bobbitts with less than 10 percent of the award but a lifetime of medical costs for their daughter, Noffsinger said.

Noffsinger has already filed court documents stating his intention to challenge the constitutionality of that law.

“It’s not a cap. It’s an ax. Calling it a cap is polite,” Noffsinger told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/12G0iOL ).

In its verdict, handed down late Friday, the jury ruled in favor of Dr. Michael Malchioni, an anesthesiologist who was also named in the lawsuit, while ruling against the hospital and Turnquest-Wells.

Laura Forbes, spokeswoman for St. Mary’s Medical Center, said the hospital could not comment on pending legal matters but that the hospital is unhappy with the verdict.

“We respectfully disagree with the verdict and continue to have full confidence in Dr. Turnquest Wells and the high quality of care she provides for our patients,” she said.

Jamie Bobbitt said his daughter, Juliann, cannot speak, has cerebral palsy in all four limbs, is wheelchair bound and must be fed by a tube. She receives constant nursing care.

Bobbitt said any award he and his wife eventually receive will have to pay for trial costs, attorney fees and an insurance lien. He said a life care plan prepared for the trial placed the cost of caring for his daughter at $5 million to $10 million.

The couple’s suit was originally filed in 2005 following Juliann’s September 2003 birth.

An amended complaint filed in May 2012 said medical providers conducted a fetal blood sampling procedure on Crystal Bobbitt with inadequate staffing and failed to provide continuous ultrasound guidance during the procedure.

The complaint alleges that repeated attempts were made to insert a needle into the umbilical vein of the 33-week-old fetus. The complaint said Turnquest-Wells failed to recognize fetal distress and deliver the baby swiftly and that she did not obtain an informed consent beforehand. Medical staff did not halt the procedure, which was elective.

Although Bobbitt said the award won’t be enough to cover his daughter’s care, Bobbitt said the lawsuit was not about money.

“It’s about my daughter and making sure these things don’t happen again,” he said.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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