Virginia Supreme Court Denies Hospital Appeal in Medical Malpractice Case

According to the Lynchburg, Virginia, News & Advance, the Virginia Supreme Court has denied an appeal by Centra Health regarding the payment of $325,000 in damages to the family of a Lynchburg man who died after being treated for a broken hip at Lynchburg General Hospital.

In the winter of 2004, 84-year-old Leonard Mullins broke his hip and went to the hospital for treatment. Although his hip was treated, an improperly maintained catheter lead to a urinary infection that took his life a few weeks later. The family’s attorney argued that the hospital’s staff was negligent in caring for Mullins properly and directly caused his death through their mismanagement of his catheter.

The initial trial took place in July of 2007, in which Centra claimed that the man’s death was related to the man’s other preexisting medical conditions, such as heart trouble, stress, and cancer. The Lynchburg Circuit Court jury ruled in favor of the Mullins family, and also ruled it a survival claim as opposed to a wrongful death claim.

In its appeal, Centra’s lawyers argued that the jury was prejudiced because it heard evidence of both a wrongful death claim and a survival claim – the jury members heard both about the man’s suffering and about the pain and suffering of his family.

“Centra Health posits that the award is excessive in light of the fact that the injury to be compensated was ‘a urinary tract infection which lasted eighteen days of Mr. Mullins’ life – most of which he spent in a comatose state,'” wrote a Centra Health spokesperson.

Because the Virginia Supreme Court has sided with the victim, this case could affect how survival claims and wrongful death claims are tried in the future all over the state. At this point, those filing claims may not have to decide which kind of case they would like to pursue, but rather let the jury decide during deliberations.

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