Just this week, a jury awarded a $170 million judgment against an HCA-Healthcare-owned hospital and a doctor accused of medical negligence in a case involving botched weight-loss surgery.
The Hospital Corporation of America, or HCA is the largest private operator of health care facilities in the world. HCA boasts 273 facility locations across the United States, and, in 2010, reported revenue of just over $33 billion.
According to The Tennesseean, the victim, a former sheriff’s deputy, sued the doctor and hospital more than two years ago after complications from weight-loss surgery that weren’t diagnosed or treated in a timely manner left the man wheelchair-bound, nearly blind, and unable to speak.
The man had allegedly gone into the hospital for gastric bypass surgery – a surgical procedure that divides the stomach into two smaller sections as a treatment for obesity. Nevertheless, though a group of surgeons at the hospital, including the defendant in this case, marketed themselves as a team that performed gastric bypass surgeries, as it turned out, “the doctor in this case shouldn’t have been doing the surgery and should not have been managing this patient because he did not have proper credentials to do this surgery,” reported The Tennesseean.
Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits arise when people are injured by careless or intentional acts on the part of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider. Healthcare professionals owe a duty of care to their patients, and when that duty is breached – such as in situations where the provider fails to diagnose an illness – the failure is said to be a “tort,” or civil wrong, which can provide the basis for a lawsuit. As a result, the healthcare professional or institution may be made to pay damages to put the injured person back in the position he or she was in prior to being injured.
As a facility that holds itself out to be a provider of professional health care services, HCA is also legally responsible for the actions of their doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. When these employees are negligent the company may be liable for either failing to properly train their staff, or failing to ensure that properly trained staff were hired to fill the positions.
In the end, the jury found that the HCA-run hospital and the doctor were medically negligent, and found that the hospital had committed fraud and made misrepresentations about the doctor’s surgical qualifications. As a result, the jury found the defendants liable for compensatory damages of $168, and awarded an additional $10 million in punitive damages in the case.
When healthcare providers are held legally responsible for harm caused to their patients in Illinois medical malpractice cases, they may be made to pay compensatory damages, which attempt to put an injured person back in the position he or she was in before being injured, such as compensation for medical and hospital expenses, and the loss of a normal life following the injury. Additionally, in some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded; punitive damages are intended to punish wrongdoers and send a message to the responsible healthcare professional and other providers to be more careful in the future.
Though Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits can’t always undo the harm done, they are an enormous step toward helping victims achieve justice, and preventing future medical negligence.