Ten years after the tragic death of her husband, Monica Smith received a $2 million verdict for his death, according to The Indianapolis Star. IU Health Methodist Hospital owed her a settlement for the death of her husband, Vincent Smith, in December 2006.
Under Indiana law, the verdict will be reduced to $1.25 million, but Smith doesn’t care about the money.
“It’s never been about the financial part. It’s always been about justice for Vincent,” Smith said.
The Facts of the Case:
- A week before Christmas in 2006, Vincent Smith entered IU Methodist Hospital for surgery to remove a metal plate from his spine. In an earlier back surgery, the plate had been inserted to stabilize his spine, but it has poked a hole in Smith’s esophagus and needed to be removed.
- After the surgery to remove the plate, Smith was put on a morphine pump that allowed him to control, within limits, how much morphine he received.
- On December 19 in the middle of the night, Smith was found unresponsive. Attempts to revive him were made with a drug often used to reverse the effects of morphine, but they were unsuccessful.
- Immediately after Smith died, the pump was removed and cleaned, erasing all of Smith’s data.
- An autopsy revealed that Smith had four times the average amount of morphine in his blood at the time of his death. No cause of death was determined for Smith.
How Is This Medical Malpractice?
Monica Smith’s lawyer argued that cleaning the pump erased data that could have helped determine why Vincent Smith died. Legally, this is known as “spoliation of evidence.”
IU Health insisted that hospital procedure requires pumps to be immediately cleaned and redistributed.
But one of Smith’s surgeons, Dr. Edward Krowiak, disagreed. He asked the hospital for the pump’s data when he learned that Smith had died, but he never heard back.
The hospital attempted to revive Smith with a drug used to reverse morphine overdoses. To the court, that indicated that Smith might have been overdosed on morphine and that the pump was erased to cover up that fact.
Medical Malpractice in Indiana
Your medical malpractice lawsuit doesn’t have to be filed against your doctor. Smith held her husband’s hospital responsible, for example. You can file your lawsuit against:
- Healthcare facilities
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Other healthcare professionals
In Indiana, you must start the lawsuit within two years of when the medical malpractice was committed. If you’re suing for more than $15,000, the complaint must first be submitted to a medical malpractice review panel before it can proceed to court.
Indiana has a medical malpractice cap in place. In 2017, it rose to $1.65 million and will settle at $1.8 million in 2019.
Pain and Suffering
If you suffer a personal injury, you may receive more money than just what is needed to cover your medical bills. Juries take into account “pain and suffering,” calculated based on your physical and mental suffering.
In Monica Smith’s case, the jury weighed several pain and suffering factors, including:
- Vincent Smith was caring financially and emotionally for Monica’s children from a previous marriage, as well as his children from his own previous marriage. Each of the children was deprived of a caring parent/stepparent.
- Shortly following Vincent’s death, Monica lost both her home and her car because of the medical bills and loss of her husband’s income.
- Monica has been emotionally scarred by her husband’s death. She has suffered from serious health issues after her husband’s death but has been too scared to visit a hospital, resulting in more pain and suffering.
Help from an Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to medical malpractice, call Hensley Legal Group today for a free consultation. Let us see if we can help.