On March 21, 2019, Ms. Adams, 73 years old, presented at Premier Interventional Pain Management in Flower Mound, Texas for an epidural steroid injection to treat her back pain. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Dr. Jon Vu performed the injection. According to Ms. Adams, immediately following the injection she believed something was wrong. As such, Dr. Vu directed that she stay at the clinic for further observation. After 45 minutes, Ms. Adams reported that she was losing feeling in her legs. The clinic called for an ambulance, which arrived approximately one hour and thirty minutes after Ms. Adams’s injection was performed.
At approximately 4:45 p.m., Ms. Adams arrived at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital emergency room. Upon arrival, the emergency room physicians examined Ms. Adams and noted that they believed that she experienced an epidural hemorrhage, or bleeding around the spine. The physicians ordered an MRI to confirm the bleeding. At 6:30 p.m., an hour and a half after arriving at the emergency room, Ms. Adams received an MRI, which confirmed the epidural hemorrhage.
At approximately 7:30 p.m., an emergency laminectomy was ordered for Ms. Adams. However, by the time the surgery was ordered, the surgeons on-call had finished their shifts and left for their homes. As such, Ms. Adams’ surgery was delayed until the team returned to the hospital. After some continued delays at the hospital, the surgery finally began at approximately 10 p.m. Despite the laminectomy, Ms. Adams was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Ms. Adams and her spouse, represented by Michael Lyons, Chris Carr, and Michael Fechner of Lyons & Simmons LLP, alleged that the hospital was wantonly and willfully negligent in its treatment of Ms. Adams. More specifically, according to Ms. Adams, the hospital’s unnecessary delays throughout her treatment caused the epidural hemorrhage, which resulted in her permanent paralysis.
Plaintiff’s expert witness, Dallas neurosurgeon Martin Lazar, testified that there is only a six-hour window after an injury to perform an emergency laminectomy, which the hospital failed to meet. In addition, the plaintiff’s counsel argued that the hospital violated its own internal policies and procedures during its treatment of Ms. Adams, including violating its policy to perform emergency surgeries within one hour.
The hospital, represented by Casey Campbell and Russ Schell of Schell Cooley Campbell LLP, argued that Dr. Vu was the proximate and actual cause of Ms. Adams’ epidural hemorrhage, which resulted in her paralysis. Defendants contended that the injection performed by Dr. Vu caused the bleeding around the spine and his delay in calling the ambulance caused the paralysis. According to the defendants, Ms. Adams was paralyzed before arriving at the hospital.
Prior to trial, the hospital offered Ms. Adams and her spouse $450,000 to settle the claim, which the plaintiffs summarily declined.
On November 29, 2022, following the trial set before Judge Martin Hoffman in Dallas County District Court, the jury returned a verdict of $10.2 million for the plaintiffs, which included past and future medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering and disfigurement. The award consisted of $4.5 million in economic damages and $5.6 million in non-economic damages.
Given that Texas imposes a statutory cap of $500,000 on non-economic medical malpractice damages for couples and has a high standard of proof in medical malpractice claims, Ms. Adams’s attorney explained that taking such cases can be daunting. However, as explained by the plaintiff’s counsel, using pre-trial focus groups and jury consultants can yield successful outcomes for plaintiffs. According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the success of a liability case like Ms. Adams’ hinges upon whether the jurors can understand the evidence presented to them.