A jury in Miami awarded $12.6 million to Shaniah Rolle, a teenager who had to have all four limbs amputated because of a vaccination error thirteen years ago. After a five-week trial, the jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict. Rolle will not recover the full amount of the award, however, as the jury also found that her mother was forty percent negligent in the events that led to Rolle’s injuries. The defendant, the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, will probably appeal the verdict.
As a young child, Rolle suffered from intestinal problems. Doctors concluded that they would have to remove her spleen and other organs. Since the spleen ordinarily protects the body from illness by filtering bacteria and other intruders, she would need medication to guard against infection. Her mother took her to the medical school’s pediatric unit in October 1998 for a checkup. A medical assistant gave Rolle an injection of a vaccine formulated for people without spleens. The assistant did not realize that the vaccine had expired five months earlier.
Because the vaccine failed to provide her protection against certain types of infection, Rolle became extremely ill about eight months later. At another hospital in Miami, doctors learned that she had a bacterial infection through her entire body that led to blood clots in her limbs. All four limbs had developed gangrene and had to be amputated above the joints.
Since then, Rolle has reportedly led a normal life. She attends Miramar High School in Miramar, Florida, and with the help of prosthetic limbs, she is on the school’s cheerleading squad.
Rolle’s mother filed suit against the medical school and the doctors who treated Rolle. Defense attorneys argued that Rolle would have become ill with or without the vaccine. A defense expert testified at the trial that the mother did not give Rolle enough medication to allow her to avoid infection. This was the basis of the jury’s conclusion that the mother was forty percent negligent. This means that the total award will be reduced by the amount of the mother’s negligence, so instead of $12.6 million she can recover around $7.56 million. This could be delayed even further, of course, if the hospital appeals.
The jury also found that Rolle’s treating physician in 1998 was five percent at fault for her injuries. The jury found several doctors named as defendants not liable at all. The defendants found to be at fault by the jury for Rolle’s injuries are liable for sixty percent of the total award. This is based on the legal theory of comparative negligence, sometimes known as contributory negligence. The hospital and some doctors breached a duty of care to Rolle, which caused her injuries. This is the basic test for a negligence verdict. Other people also owed a duty of care to Rolle, however, including her mother. The jury concluded that she breached her duty to Rolle by failing to ensure that she had enough medication. By finding that the mother breached a duty of care that contributed to the injuries, the jury shifted some of the burden of damages off the defendants.
Patients who have suffered injury due to hospital pharmacy errors have rights to compensation for their damages. If you or a loved one have suffered harm from a medication error, contact the Maryland pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen online or at (800) 654-1949 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
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Hospital Patient Mistakenly Given Drug Used in Executions, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, December 7, 2011
Pharmacist Jailed for Fatal Medication Error, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 16, 2011
Infant Dies of Accidental Antibiotic Overdose in Hospital, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2011