The jury awarded the college student more than $111 million in damages concerning negligent care for his post-surgery extreme pain and permanent disability. The first-year student, Anuj Thapa, is a citizen of Nepal who attended college at St. Cloud State University. The student sought medical care at the facility after injuring his leg in a pick-up soccer game.
The jury awarded Thapa $111,251,559.22 as compensation for past and future pain, emotional distress, and medical expenses. More specifically, the award includes “$100 million for future ‘pain, disability, disfigurement, embarrassment, and emotional distress,’ $10 million for the same suffering in the past, and more than $1 million for past and future medical expenses.”
The plaintiff’s attorney estimated the award “is the biggest medical malpractice and personal injury verdict in Minnesota” history. This could well be true, based on two other recent awards in the state.
A Twin Cities doctor was awarded $25 million after a jury found Assist America, an emergency medical provider, failed to transport him to a U.S. hospital after he complained about the care he was getting in a local Mazatlán hospital. A ziplining accident in Mexico led to a leg amputation.
Also, a Hennepin County, MN jury issued a $35 million verdict in what was then believed to be a record-setting personal injury award. The jury found in favor of a man who suffered permanent brain damage after machinery at his workplace crushed his head.
What Happened to the College Student’s Leg?
In 2017, Thapa’s leg was injured in a soccer field tackle during a pickup game at St. Cloud State University. He then arrived via ambulance at CentraCare’s St. Cloud Hospital. At the hospital, the medical team diagnosed the injury as a severe leg fracture requiring immediate surgery. An orthopedic doctor on call recommended and performed surgery on Thapa’s broken left leg that evening. A physician’s assistant assisted the doctor.
The complaint stated that the then 19-year-old had uncontrollable pain, burning, numbness, and muscle problems the next morning. Nevertheless, Thapa was discharged later that night but returned to the hospital six days later with unbearable pain. Another doctor operated on the leg that day and found that Thapa had “acute compartment syndrome,” The doctor also found that his leg muscles were “were gray and could not contract.” This condition is considered a medical emergency from excess pressure built-up in a group of muscles.
Trial testimony revealed that since the first surgery on the night of the soccer field injury, the young man has endured some dozen more surgeries on his left leg. His lawyer stated that despite all the surgeries, Thapa suffers from permanent disabilities in the leg. Thapa’s lawyer also stated that Thapa may need hip surgery down the road. Thapa moved to Los Angeles where the weather is better for his condition. His dreams to become a mechanical engineer are still alive, however. He’s pursuing his studies at St. Cloud State online from California.
In his civil lawsuit, Thapa claims that St. Cloud Ortho and CentraCare Health System, a medical provider group that operates at St. Cloud Hospital and of which the initial doctor is a member, strayed from proper medical practice. Their failure to fully evaluate Thapa’s initial symptoms and to identify that he was suffering from acute compartment syndrome led to catastrophic results for Thapa. The discharge of the patient post-surgery was also a failure of care, according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges the health care system’s departure from standard medical practice “played a substantial role in bringing about Mr. Thapa’s severe, permanent, and disabling injuries.”
The defense maintains that the care provided to Thapa was in accordance with accepted standards of care. St. Cloud Orthopedics is evaluating its options after this $111 million verdict and continues to support its providers.
Learnings for Malpractice Lawyers
What can malpractice lawyers take away from this case and apply to their own practice? Well for one, take heart that an underdog victim, a boy far away from his farm home in Nepal, was able to get justice in a medical malpractice lawsuit in the United States with the help of his attorney.
Thapa’s lawyers didn’t hesitate to proceed to trial even when the defendants never offered any money to settle this case. This fact indicates that they were confident they’d prevail before a jury, which is noteworthy for practitioners. Believe in your case and stick to your guns.
This case hinged on convincing a jury that medical providers failed to align with accepted standards of medical practice in providing care and treatment to Thapa. Expert witness testimony undoubtedly played a role in demonstrating that St. Cloud Orthopedics did not live up to the standards expected from every doctor giving care to a patient. When managing your next medical malpractice case, be sure to have a competent medical expert on your team. Their testimony can make or break a malpractice case.