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Jury Awards $172M for Girl’s Injuries After 16-Year Court Battle

The largest New York jury award for a personal injury in 2014 was $172,381,728 in the case of Applewhite v. AccuHealth Inc. The case arose from a 1998 incident that left 12-year-old Tiffany Applewhite with severe brain damage, which paralyzed her and rendered her mute. Defendants in the case included a nurse, the nurse’s employer AccuHealth, Inc., the City of New York, and the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.

The events that led to the injury were as follows. A nurse, Linda Russo, visited the Applewhite home to treat Tiffany for chronic inflammation of her eyes. She administered an injection of the corticosteroid methylprednisolone. Tiffany’s breathing became distressed and she experienced a seizure. Tiffany’s mother called an ambulance. When paramedics arrived six minutes later, they noted that Tiffany was experiencing cardiopulmonary arrest, but they did not have the equipment to treat her. Rather than transport Tiffany, they called another ambulance to the scene. After 20 minutes, the second ambulance arrived, and paramedics resuscitated her and administered epinephrine to counteract the previous injection. Tiffany was transported to the hospital where doctors determined she had suffered permanent residual brain damage.

These facts indicate a series of failures in which one negligent act is piled upon another. First, the nurse administered a drug that can elicit an allergic reaction causing difficulty breathing as well as swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat. Yet, the nurse did not have epinephrine ready to treat the foreseeable reaction. Then, the ambulance arrived to treat a medical emergency without the proper emergency equipment. Finally, paramedics made the recommendation to wait for help instead of transporting the girl to the emergency room.

Numerous factors weighed in the plaintiff’s favor, especially the fact that an innocent child had suffered a catastrophic injury that had robbed her of all quality of life. Still, it was a case fraught with difficulty as the city tried to shift all responsibility to the private healthcare provider, AccuHealth, and that company declared bankruptcy. Medical malpractice cases can take a long time to work their way through the court system, but after a tough 16-year fight, this case resolved favorably. The award ensures care for the disabled plaintiff and should serve as a deterrent to negligence of this kind in the future.

If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another person, the right personal injury attorney can make a difference in your case and in your life. To speak with a Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson attorney at no charge, call 888.746.8212 or contact us online.

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