Jurors in Buckelew, et al. v. Womack, et al., a Georgia case, weighed the evidence against multiple healthcare providers after Plaintiff Jonathan Bucklew suffered a stroke and was left with “locked-in syndrome” in the emergency room, a syndrome that leaves the body completely paralyzed other than eye and cognitive functions. Jurors handed down a $75 million verdict and attributed 60% of fault to emergency room physician Dr. Matthew Womack and 40% of fault to radiologist Dr. James Waldschmidt. The additional providers, including a neurologist, physician assistant, and an entire unit of ICU nurses were all found not to be negligent.
The trial focused largely on whether the healthcare providers who treated Bucklew met the applicable standards of care and whether any additional treatment would have prevented his paralysis. Specifically, causation was a vital issue in this case. Directly before being admitted to the emergency room, Bucklew suffered a stroke which occurred after a chiropractic neck treatment and plaintiff alleged that the medical professionals at the hospital failed to properly diagnose or treat the condition until the next day, causing his catastrophic paralysis. Defense attorneys argued that “The proximate cause of this event was the chiropractor doing the manipulation when he had a two-week history of headaches,” and that “the chiropractor is solely responsible.” Ultimately, the jury was not swayed after Bucklew’s attorneys provided expert testimony that “time was of the essence” in addressing Bucklew’s stroke and that earlier treatment could have led to a more favorable result.
For a full breakdown of opposing arguments, click the link here.
INSIGHTS FOR GF CLIENTS
Extreme jury awards – known as “nuclear verdicts” – such as this one, are on the rise in the United States. Based on the National Law Journal’s Top 100 Verdicts Report, the average verdict more than tripled from 2015 to 2019 from $64 million to $214 million. What can be done to try to control the rise of nuclear verdicts?
- Engage counsel early to begin attempting to allay the risk of such a hefty verdict.
- Ask your lawyer whether the particulars of your case could result in a nuclear verdict.
- Pick your battles— “nuclear verdicts” are a risk that clients should consider in weighing whether to settle a case.
Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other issues facing your company.