Anesthesia error results in death: verdict for $20 million cut to $4 million.

Author:Tammelleo, A. David

IN THIS UNUSUAL WRONGFUL DEATH/MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE A JURY RETURNED A VERDICT IN THE AMOUNT OF $20 MILLION DOLLARS. After the trial court denied the defendants' motions for a new trial, however the trial court, concerned that the amount of damages awarded might be excessive, ordered that unless the decedent's estate consented to a remittitur to reduce the plaintiff's recovery to $4 Million Dollars, the trial court would grant the defendants' motion for a new trial. In spite of the fact that the plaintiff accepted the trial court's offer for remittitur, the defendants appealed.

DR. RANDALL BOUDREAUX IS A LICENSED, BOARD-CERTIFIED ANESTHESIOLOGIST AND A PRINCIPAL OF COSTAL ANESTHESIOLOGY, P.C. (COASTAL). He was employed by Coastal, which was the exclusive provider of anesthesiology at Springhill Memorial Hospital (Springhill) in Mobile, Alabama. In January 2006 Paulett Pettaway Hall, a 32-year-old mother who had previously undergone gastric-bypass surgery and who presented at Springhill with complaints of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, underwent an exploratory laparotomy at Springhill. Dr. Boudreaux and a CRNA employed by Costal, administered anesthesia to Paulett. Paulett had numerous risk factors placing her in the category of patients with a high risk of pulmonary aspiration during the administration of anesthesia via routine intubation. Despite those risk factors, Dr. Boudreaux and CRNA Ortego, who failed to physically examine Paulett for the presence of aspiration risks or to review her medical records, employed a routine anesthetic induction as part of the intubation process instead of the rapid sequence induction required for patients at risk for aspiration. During the induction, Paulett aspirated bile into her lungs, resulting in a decrease in her oxygen-saturation levels and ultimately, her death as a result of aspiration pneumonitis. Her estate filed suit for wrongful death/medical malpractice against Dr. Boudreaux, CRNA Ortega, and Costal (defendants). After a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $20 Million Dollars. The defendants filed a joint motion seeking, alternatively, a judgment as a matter of law, a new trial, or a remittitur of the damages awarded. The trial court denied the defendants' postjudgment motions, on the condition that the plaintiff accept a remittitur of the jury verdict. Specifically, applying the guideposts established outlined in leading cases, the trial...

To continue reading