Last year, a jury in New York awarded 34-year-old Stacey Galette $62 million in compensation for hospital negligence that resulted in the loss of both legs below the knees. On October 6, 2009, the young mother from Brooklyn had gone to Winthrop University Hospital for laparoscopic removal of an ectopic pregnancy, a dangerous condition where the embryo attaches within the fallopian tubes rather than the uterus. It should have been a simple gynecological procedure, but doctors perforated her sigmoid colon. Despite her feeling intense pain, doctors released Ms. Galette from the hospital. She returned a day later with a blood infection. Doctors medicated her, but the medication caused a collapse of the veins in her legs. Ms. Galette developed residual gangrene. Doctors amputated her feet, but the gangrene had spread, leaving doctors no choice but to amputate her legs below the knees. Ms. Galette also suffered partial hearing loss.
Stacey Galette was a very sympathetic plaintiff. Twenty-nine at the time of her procedure, Ms. Galette was an attractive single mother who worked as a medical assistant. But due to a series of negligent events, she suffered a catastrophic injury that left her in a wheelchair.
The defendants included the doctors involved in the procedure and Winthrop University Hospital, a prestigious teaching and research hospital with a mission to “improve the health and well-being of the residents of Nassau County and contiguous county areas.” However, it seems clear that Winthrop and its staff failed in their duty to Ms. Galette on several counts: failing to perform the initial procedure properly; failing to supervise the doctor who performed the procedure; failing to diagnose the injury the procedure had caused; and failing to address her deteriorating condition post-procedure.
When the plaintiff is someone with whom a jury can have empathy and the defendants commits not a single mistake, but a series of negligent acts, juries tend to be generous. Ms. Galette got the justice she sought.
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