A jury in New Jersey awarded a young woman and her family $17 million over an incident that caused her to be permanently brain damaged. The verdict came on the heels of a six-week jury trial.
At the age of seven, Kelsey Heaney was admitted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for pneumonia according to the New Jersey Law Journal. After undergoing lung surgery, she was placed on a ventilator for 10 days. Court documents showed that Kelsey was in the process of making a complete recovery until the doctor removed the ventilator too early.
Kelsey was still sedated when the ventilator was removed, leaving her unable to breathe on her own. She went into cardiac arrest and suffered from hypoxia, a condition that occurs when an insufficient amount of oxygen reaches the body’s tissues. As a result, the part of Kelsey’s brain that processes information was damaged. The Ashbury Park Press reported that Kelsey, now 16-years-old, is dependent on the care of others and requires a full-time classroom aide to help her at school.
The Heaney family sued the doctor, his employer, and the hospital for failure to render proper care. The process took nearly seven years and may not be over yet. The medical center plans to appeal the jury’s decision.
The verdict included $10 million for medical expenses, $5 million for pain and suffering, and $2 million for future lost earnings. The defense did not propose a settlement offer at any point leading up to or during the trial.
Medical experts at the trial presented evidence that the doctor and medical staff overlooked the signs that Kelsey was not ready to be taken off the ventilator. The defense’s experts countered that the doctor’s decision to take Kelsey off the ventilator was within the standard of care. During the trial, the defense also raised questions about the extent to which Kelsey’s brain had been damaged.