In New Mexico and other states, it is often observed that a large medical negligence verdict contains within it the cost of future years of medical care for a severely disabled plaintiff. If the victim is totally immobile, or if there are vital treatments that must be continuously administered, the price tag on those services on a yearly basis for the rest of the patient’s estimated life expectancy, can be a substantial amount. In a recent jury verdict for medical malpractice in another state, the award for $9.1 million to a 51-year-old man with spinal cord damage and partial paralysis, likely reflects future years of costly rehab therapy and medical care.
The plaintiff alleged that he went to the hospital for repair of a perforated bowel. He claimed that the anesthesiologist treated him improperly when he was in pre-operative care, which left him dangerously dehydrated, with a very low blood pressure and inadequate blood flow to the spinal cord. The defendant disputed that this caused the injury.
However, the defense denials were not accepted by the jury hearing the evidence. On the strength of plaintiff’s expert medical witnesses, the jury chose to believe that the evidence supported the plaintiff’s position. The fine medical points of which course of treatment was appropriate was presented by both sides at trial, and the jury determined that the plaintiff’s evidence was stronger and more convincing.
The plaintiff had freely admitted that the intensive therapy he had been receiving was giving him some strength to walk with the help of a walker. But the money ran out, and the therapy had to stop. The jury computed the figures and compensated the medical malpractice plaintiff not only for the lost profits of his business but also for the future costs for the care of his person and for physical therapy. A similar outcome would be likely if the case were tried and decided under New Mexico law.