Largest Jury Verdicts of 2008

As reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, January 26, 2009

"Despite economic woes, large verdicts hold steady"

Lubin & Meyer recovers two largest medical malpractice jury verdicts in Massachusetts for 2008

Lubin & Meyer is again recognized for having achieved 2 of the 5 largest verdicts for 2008 as reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The article states,

"Despite the challenges brought on by the recession, Robert M. Higgins, a medical malpractice attorney who earned the fourth and fifth largest awards of the year (a pair of $9 million verdicts), says compelling facts will always override outside money concerns facing jurors."

Said Higgins, "I am a firm believer that jurors take their oath seriously. We had those two verdicts at the beginning and end of the year, which shows that if the jurors believe in your case, they are capable of doing the right thing despite the economy.

Two of the top five verdicts for 2008 were medical malpractice trials. Both were tried by Higgins. Below are excerpts from the report.

$9.43 million - Medical Malpractice
4th largest verdict of 2008 - Massachusetts
Suffolk Superior Court
Date of verdict: Nov. 5, 2008
Plaintiff’s attorney: Robert M. Higgins and Nicholas D. Cappiello, Lubin & Meyer, Boston

Robert M. Higgins' argument to the jury was simple: The doctors should have known better.

Higgins represented the family of Amy Altman, a 40-year-old Hopkinton woman diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma who died in 2003 while receiving experimental chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. After she agreed to be the first adult in the country to receive the treatment, Higgins says doctors simply ignored her complaints.

Despite informing physicians that she had been suffering from severe diarrhea for 17 consecutive days shortly after receiving the treatment, the doctors did nothing, Higgins said.

"They had never seen an adult react to this treatment and didn't know if it was strange or perfectly normal," he said. "But they just decided that 17 days of diarrhea was perfectly normal without doing any investigation. That’s a fact that jurors don't need to a have a medical degree to have a problem with."

Altman, who was found to be suffering from a flesh-eating bacteria, died two days after finally being admitted to the hospital.

"I knew this was something that could have been prevented, but my concern was that the jury was going to hear that this bacteria was so aggressive that they would say to themselves that even if the doctors had done something, they wouldn't have been able to stop it," he said.

Higgins said he conceded at trial that the bacteria was highly aggressive but focused his case on proving that if doctors had done everything right in the weeks leading up to its existence, the deadly symptoms never would have developed.

After nine hours of deliberations at the conclusion of a six-day trial, the jury apparently agreed, returning a $9.43 million award.

"This was a family that didn't live in Boston, had done their homework and considered a number of hospitals before deciding on the Dana Farber," he says. "They expected that the people at the Dana Farber, because of their reputation, would take any complaints seriously and really be on top of things. But, unfortunately, that’s not what happened here."

$9.1 million - Medical Malpractice
5th largest verdict of 2008 - Massachusetts
Middlesex Superior Court
Date of verdict: March 3, 2008
Plaintiff’s counsel: Robert M. Higgins, Lubin & Meyer, Boston

Heading into trial, Robert M. Higgins had some serious concerns about the circumstances surrounding a malpractice case he was bringing on behalf of a 30-year-old woman who went to Brockton Hospital for elective thyroid surgery.

When the woman complained of abdominal pain after waking up from the procedure at 11 a.m., the defendant doctors performed a second surgery to remove air from her abdomen and then sutured it closed.

A few hours later the woman’s blood started draining and she began suffering from other problems in the recovery room.

Higgins says his client went into cardiac arrest at 5 p.m.; she was intubated and placed on a ventilator. Over the next six hours, her condition deteriorated and medical officials eventually transferred her to Boston Medical Center.

By that point, Higgins says, his client had already suffered from abdominal compartment syndrome. She went into massive shock in Boston and died the next day.

While the negligence suit alleged that the defendants mishandled much of this client’s care, Higgins says he conceded at trial that the air in the patient’s abdomen was not their fault.

"Anytime you have a plaintiff who develops a condition the defendants aren't responsible for, you're really stuck having to say that even though they weren't responsible for it, they should have addressed it and dealt with it better," he says. "The worry with that kind of argument is that jurors might say that because this woman had this freaky thing happen to her, they are going to have difficulty holding anyone responsible."

After five hours of deliberations, the jury returned a $9.1 million award.

Higgins says the case really came down to a simple assessment of events that happened during a 10-hour period.

"The defendants had never seen this complication before, so a big part of the case was proving that they should have gotten her to Boston Medical Center as soon as they realized they were in over their head," he says. "It was a pretty straightforward case."

See related: Lubin & Meyer leads way with 22 of the top 34
medical malpractice settlements in Massachusetts in 2008

See also: Top Verdicts 2007

See also: Largest Settlements 2007

See also: Largest Settlements in 2006

See also: Top Verdicts of 2005

See also: Largest Settlements in 2005

See also: Featured Verdicts of 2004

See also: Largest Settlements in 2003

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