Jury Awards Record-Breaking $6.19M to Man Who Suffered Traumatic Brain Injury at Firelands Hospital

A jury in Erie County, Ohio, recently awarded $6.19 million to a 78-year-old man who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after falling while a patient at Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky. The significant amount the jury awarded to Johnson stacks up as the second-largest medical malpractice verdict in Erie County.

Man sitting on hospital bed

ByCarolyn Casey, J.D.


Published on January 26, 2024

Man sitting on hospital bed

What Happened?

After his admission to the hospital to address his medical condition in March 2018, Mr. Johnson’s medical team started him on seven medications. The medications were known to increase his potential to suffer a fall.

The hospital’s own policies mandate that staff use certain precautions to mitigate a patient’s elevated fall risk. Yet, hospital staff failed to institute these precautions with Mr. Johnson.

Sure enough, when Johnson got up to use the bathroom he fell and hit his head. Doctors diagnosed him with a TBI, which left him with permanent injuries. He is now confined to his home. His wife Melissa had to quit her job to assume full-time care of her husband.

Jury Finds the Hospital Responsible

Michael Johnson and his wife, Melissa Johnson, filed a lawsuit against Firelands Regional Medical Center and Firelands Regional Health System. The Johnsons initially brought the suit to Cuyahoga County in 2019 and later moved it to Erie County in March 2021.

After a ten-day trial, a 6-2 jury vote placed the blame for Johnson’s life-changing brain injury squarely on Firelands.

Historical Award

The jury said Firelands must pay Mr. Johnson more than $2.1 million for his past and future medical expenses. The pain and suffering award totaled $650,000, along with $1.2 million for the mental anguish he suffered. His compensation for the loss of the enjoyment of life was $1.2 million. The total award exceeded $6.1 million. This was the highest award a jury has delivered in this judge’s courtroom.

After the verdict, Firelands Health said it has complete faith and confidence in its nursing team that serves Firelands Health and the region. The healthcare provider added that it appreciated the jury’s services in resolving this issue and wished the Johnson family well.

Implications for Medical Malpractice Lawyers

The law firm Tittle & Perlmuter, which represented the Johnsons, stated that “[t]he jury's verdict sent a very clear message to all of Erie County and beyond: Policies matter, patient safety rules matter and everyone deserves the same standard of medical care.” The lawyer also emphasized that the case proved that the jury system works and delivers justice.

Plaintiffs’ counsel in medical malpractice cases will want to engage top-notch medical experts who not only testify on the industry-wide standards of care but also scour medical providers’ own internal policies. Here, counsel successfully turned the hospital’s own fall risk mitigation policies against the defendants to prove negligence.

About the author

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Carolyn Casey is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in legal tech, e-discovery, and legal content creation. As Principal of WritMarketing, she combines her decade of Big Law experience with two decades in software leadership to provide strategic consulting in product strategy, content, and messaging for legal tech clients. Previously, Carolyn served as Legal Content Writer for Expert Institute, Sr. Director of Industry Relations at AccessData, and Director of Product Marketing at Zapproved, focusing on industry trends in forensic investigations, compliance, privacy, and e-discovery. Her career also includes roles at Iron Mountain as Head of Legal Product Management and Sr. Product Marketing Manager, where she led product and marketing strategies for legal services, and at Fios Inc as Sr. Marketing Manager, specializing in eDiscovery solutions.

Her early legal expertise was honed at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, where she developed legal strategies for mergers, acquisitions, and international finance matters. Carolyn's education includes a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she was a Senior Editor for the International Law Journal and participated in a pioneering China Summer Law Program. She also holds an AB in Political Science with a minor in art history from Stanford University. Her diverse skill set encompasses research, creative writing, copy editing, and a deep understanding of legal product marketing and international legal trends.

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