A sad story in Montana finally came to a close recently with a jury decision in a medical malpractice case. The jury found that St. James Healthcare should pay nearly $2 million in damages for a failure to diagnose that led to the death of a patient. The jury decided that the cost of the hospital’s negligence was $1 million for the economic endured by the plaintiffs and $880,000 for emotional and non-economic damages. However, the award for emotional damages was reduced to $187,000 due to state law limits on personal injury verdicts.

The victim was a 36-year-old woman from Butte. She died from a rare blood disorder after being admitted to the hospital. The complaint alleged that the woman died due to the hospital’s failure to diagnose the disease. The extremely rare disorder occurs in only one to 10 cases per million.

The complaint also named the victim’s physician and the Rocky Mountain Clinic as negligent parties, but the jury disagreed. The victim went to the Rocky Mountain Clinic because of a sudden illness onset in 2006 and was treated by the physician. She then moved to St. James and died the same day.

The claim alleged that the hospital failed to recognize the victim’s serious condition and did not administer the necessary treatment. The hospital rebutted this claim by stating that when the woman arrived at the hospital, her disease was so advanced that treatment would not have helped. But even in light of the hospital’s statements to the contrary, the jury found that the hospital was negligent in caring for the patient and that such negligence led to her death.

In medical malpractice cases like this one, victims need to show that the health care provider did not comply with the applicable standard of care. If it can be shown that a provider was negligent, then a victim may be able to receive compensation for injuries, medical expenses and non-economic losses.

Source: The Montana Standard, “Jury: St. James must pay $1.8 million for negligence,” John Grant Emeigh, July 24, 2012

Source: Missoulian, “Jury awards $187K in lawsuit over Butte woman’s death from undiagnosed blood disorder,” July 29, 2012