Iowa Agrees to $7.5M Settlement in Medical Negligence Claim

Plaintiff, Christopher Dolan, brought suit against the state of Iowa for its governance of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in connection with the hospital’s negligent medical treatment. 

Kandace Watkins, J.D.

Written by
— Updated on September 20, 2022

Iowa Agrees to $7.5M Settlement in Medical Negligence Claim

On December 26, 2016, Dolan and his wife went to the emergency room at Trinity Medical Center in Bettendorf, Iowa. Dolan complained of a monthlong headache, nausea, vomiting, and right eye pain. He also suffered from weeks of blurred vision and light sensitivity. A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed that Dolan likely had a tumor. Based on the diagnostic imaging, Trinity Medical Center transferred Dolan to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC), where he was promptly admitted.

What Happened at UIHC?

At UIHC, lab tests confirmed the presence of a pituitary tumor. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a mass. Later that day, UIHC discharged Dolan with instructions to follow up with UIHC neurosurgery in two weeks.

The following day, on December 27, 2016, Dolan returned to the UIHC emergency room. He complained of a worsening headache, continued vomiting, blurred vision, and eye pain. UIHC performed a second CT scan, which reconfirmed the presence of a pituitary mass. The scan also revealed signs of “elevated intracranial pressure and a rapid expansion of the tumor to bleeding.

Despite the concerning imaging results, on December 28, 2016, UIHC discharged Dolan with advice to follow up with neurosurgery. The next day, Dolan presented at the UIHC emergency room for a third time complaining of worsening symptoms. He also complained that he was unable to keep food and medicine down. An MRI revealed that the tumor grew and had begun to hemorrhage. UIHC again admitted Dolan and scheduled him for surgery to remove the tumor the next morning.

Tumor Removal

On December 30, 2016, four UIHC physicians performed a transsphenoidal resection of the pituitary tumor on Dolan. However, while removing the tumor, the physicians discovered they had damaged Dolan’s sellar region bone and erroneously filled his left sinus. During recovery, Dolan was unresponsive, and an MRI revealed brain damage.

Post-surgery,  Dolan experienced altered consciousness and gross neurological complications. As a result, Dolan had to remain in the hospital for over a year. While in recovery, he required a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. Dolan also suffered multiple complications during recovery.

On January 17, 2018, Dolan was discharged from UIHC with ongoing and long-term neurological deficits, including speech disturbance, paralysis, and other life-altering limitations.

Medical Negligence Claim Against UIHC

Dolan alleged that UIHC was grossly negligent in providing his medical treatment. He claimed that due to the medical negligence that he experienced, he is wheelchair-bound and requires constant care. In addition, Dolan claimed that his speech, motor, bowl, and bladder functions are compromised. According to Dolan, his right leg and arm are spastic and paralyzed due to negligent medical treatment. Dolan also alleged that he and his family incurred expenses related to his ongoing medical care, prescriptions, and life-supporting treatments. Finally, Dolan claimed that he and his spouse experienced a loss of wages.

In response, the state of Iowa alleged that Dolan’s complaint failed to completely and accurately summarize his extensive and detailed medical records. The state also argued that Dolan failed to exhaust all administrative remedies as required by statute. Finally, the state argued that other intervening and superseding factors contributed to Dolan’s medical problems.

More specifically, the state contended that Dolan failed to mitigate damages. Furthermore, the state argued that any recovery should not include any loss which could have been prevented with reasonable care and diligence. According to the state, Dolan’s injuries could have been caused by other forces, acts, omissions, events, preexisting conditions, or causes outside of the control of the defendants

Reaching a Settlement

On July 11, 2022, without admitting any liability, the state agreed to a $7.5 million medical malpractice settlement. The State Appeal Board of Iowa approved the settlement. The attorney general assigned 75% of the payment to UI Physicians, a UI-based medical and surgical practice. However, UI Physicians has a $5 million claim cap. Therefore, the state agreed to pay the remaining $2.5 million of the settlement.

Key Takeaways

In many states, including Iowa, medical malpractice lawyers cannot go straight to a court for relief in the event of medical negligence. Before bringing a medical malpractice action against a healthcare provider, medical malpractice lawyers must exhaust all administrative remedies. Even if the complaint is submitted to a medical review board, medical malpractice lawyers must wait for an opinion regarding the merits of the complaint before moving forward with a lawsuit.

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