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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Switched Cat Scans Results in Brain Surgery Mix-Up


A Michigan jury awarded the family of an 81-year-old woman $21 million in a lawsuit against Oakwood Hospital. The family claimed the hospital mistakenly operated on her brain in January 2012 when she was supposed to have a simple jaw alignment. She was already in precarious health and recovering from a heart attack she had suffered in October. The woman never recovered from the surgery and died 60 days later after being on life support.

According to the lawsuit, after mixing up her CT scan results with those of another patient, hospital staff thought the woman had bleeding in her brain and needed immediate surgery. She was wheeled into the operating room where five holes were drilled into her head and the right side of her skull was sawed out and replaced. “They poked around in her brain, couldn’t find anything and closed her up,” said the Geoffrey Fieger, the family’s attorney.

A safety officer said the mix-up wasn’t the result of a failure on Oakwood’s part to develop and follow proper procedures. The family only became suspicious when they noticed the woman’s x-rays were different than when she was admitted to the hospital. According to Fieger, the woman’s family was not told about the mistake, nor was the state of Michigan. He also claims Oakwood falsified medical records and never admitted their mistake until trial, two years later. Despite admitting they operated on the wrong patient, Oakwood said they had done no harm to her. Fieger also stated that during closing arguments, Oakwood’s attorney asked the jury to send the plaintiffs back to India as their verdict; the woman and her family had recently immigrated to the U.S. An appeal is planned.

The appeal will delay payment and justice (perhaps deny it) for this terribly wronged family.  The hospital seems to have taken the attitude that an 81-year-old life is not worth much.  The jury, obviously, disagreed.  Michigan tort reform may reduce the verdict; the court of appeals and/or the very conservative Michigan Supreme Court may reverse.  Such is the fate of victims and their justice-seeking attorneys in today’s litigation climate.

Tort reform creates the atmosphere in which hospital representatives can speak so callously about their outrageous conduct.  There is a “blame the victim” and, especially a “blame the victim’s lawyer” mentality in all cases, especially in Medical/Hospital Malpractice cases, these days.  Should patients be required to mark the spots of their prospective surgeries with a highlighter to avoid unnecessary surgery or surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong body part?  How can a hospital spokesperson say that the hospital had “done no harm” when performing brain surgery on the wrong patient?  What would the result have been if a hospital spokesperson would have admitted fault, immediately, and offered reasonable compensation?  The family would have been thankful for their honesty and compassion and would have accepted an offer for far less than this verdict.  Verdicts that seem “outrageous” to the general public are, almost always, the result of outrageous behavior by the defendant.  That was certainly true here.  This jury got it exactly right.  If our legislators would stop accepting campaign contributions from those who would ask them for “tort reform” in return, perhaps our citizens would avoid these drastic results in the operating room and safety-conscience defendants would strive to limit mistakes rather than litigation results.

To the “tort reform hypocrites who staunchly defend the Second Amendment (while our citizens are killed, en masse, with guns) while ignoring the Seventh Amendment:  While there is room for debate as to what exactly the Second Amendment calls for, there can be no debate about the Seventh.  The Constitution doesn’t discriminate, why should you?  Hopefully, this family will get every dime of this verdict, this hospital will pay dearly and learn a valuable lesson, and the cause of justice will prevail, once again, in Michigan courtrooms.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.


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  1. jc says:
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    There Bello goes again! We hear about the $21 million verdict this year and the $25 million Wisconsin verdict last year. What Mark always forgets to talk about are that 80% of filed medical malpractice suits are dropped with no payment. Or that about 95% of cases that go to trial are won by the defendant doctor. I agree with Mark that appeals take forever, but that cuts both ways. I won a unanimous jury verdict in September 2008 and it took until Dec 2014 before the patient gave up and stopped appealing and finally dropped his frivolous case against me. Then there was the time I was sued for 6 years for a typographical mistake. These cases, that I have described are far and away the vast majority of the medical malpractice cases that are filed. Bello’s 20 million verdicts are once a year events! By the way, Mark, whatever happened to the $25 million Wisconsin woman. —did she get her money and how much did the lawyer get–wasn’t that lawyer complaining because he was only going to get $4 million instead of $10 million for his contingency fee?

  2. Mark Bello says:
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    Dr. Cox: Please read articles (or, better yet, TRANSCRIPTS) that report the outrageous conduct in this case and tell me how your comments relate to this particular article and the circumstances reported in it. The purpose of the article is to point out that tort reform has a serious consequence to helpless victims (and their families) of serious misconduct. Full accountability of negligent doctors would help to prevent this type of conduct and improve safety. When I point to legitimate, serious, cases of neglect, you post about the one time, years ago, when you won a case filed by some bad lawyers and it took nine years to clear your name. I’m sorry this happened to you; there are some bad lawyers out there, just like there are bad doctors. But what does your case have to do with this one?!

    I do not and never have advocated for the filing of worthless cases. I DO advocate for FULL compensation when misconduct is serious and the result catastrophic. I DO advocate that legislators should honor the 7th Amendment and keep their hands off our civil justice system. Bad lawyers should be and often are punished by good judges. Our judges do not need legislative assistance; they have full power to discipline and penalize lawyers. As usual, you are mixing apples and oranges and your personal bias effects your credibility.

    In this case, the hospital and doctor operated on the wrong person’s head, then, essentially, declared that the victim was aged, therefore “worthless” and that she should be sent “back to India”. How does a case like that fit your skewed and worthless “statistics”?

  3. jc says:
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    Actually, Mark, this is exactly the type of case where medical malpractice caps should apply. I have a Michigan License, but I rarely practice in Michigan and from my reading, the maximum reimbursement for noneconomic brain damages is $500,000. Plus, the estate gets medical expenses and economic damages of probably $500,000 – $1,000,000 for a total of $1,000,000 – $1,500,000. Hey, Mark, on appeal, the verdict will be reduced to that amount. Let’s look at this. No question a tragic mistake was made, but in your explanation of the case, the plaintiff attorney did not ask for punitive damages. In the USA, women have an average life expectancy of 81 and this woman was in poor health. So in this situation, $1,000,000 – $1,500,000 is very generous. In this situation the lawyer gets $400K-$600K and the family gets between $600K and $900K. What is the family going to do with $900K? I am sure they all loved grandma, but $900K is $900K and if they really liked her that much! But this jury went wild and awarded $21 million! O.K., the jury was mad, but the lawyer gets $8,000,000 and the family gets $13,000,000 and grandma gets buried in a solid gold casket? Also the hospital gets into serious financial trouble and ends up shutting down and/or laying off hundreds of innocent workers. Is that what we want Mark–all so the lawyer can get a record pay day and the relatives can become independently wealthy?

  4. Mark Bello says:
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    Dr. Cox: Behave like this hospital and their lawyer behaved and you should pay dearly and in full. Your “solid gold casket” comment is the same callousness and arrogance that got the hospital in trouble with the jury. Shame on you. Does this type of sarcasm in the wake of tragedy run in the medical/hospital family?

    You are probably correct that the verdict will be reduced on appeal or via tort reform “caps” on damages. Full jury awards are rarely recovered (something your rants always seem to ignore). So, why speak of lawyers getting 7 figure fees and “gold plated caskets” when you know the award will be tort-reformed to oblivion and negligent, arrogant, calloused doctors and hospitals will keep getting bailed out by the system?

    In THIS situation, with THIS mistake and THIS hospital’s response to it, THIS jury got it exactly right. “Tort reform” should not bail this hospital out of paying every single dime of the verdict.

  5. jc says:
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    Wrong again Mark! This 81 year old woman is dead. How is a dead woman going to spend a $21,000,000 verdict? She won’t spend it, her estate will. Of course the first in line to get money from the estate is the plaintiff attorney who stands to make $8,000,000! That lawyer is who Mark Bello is really defending, and he is callousing using this unfortunate death to advance plaintiff attorney greed.
    By the way, has anyone ever noticed how plaintiff attorneys self appoint themselves and the legal system as the only ones out there policing the medical profession? Plaintiff attorneys seem to forget that that hospitals have active medical staff committees with PEER review. State Medical Boards rigorously investigate doctors on HIPPA violation to deficient care. Finally, doctor’s practices live and die on their local reputation.

  6. Mark Bello says:
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    Sure doesn’t sound like the hospital “policed” this one. The hospital lawyer suggested that this woman’s life was “worthless” and that the jury should ‘send her back to India”. As I have indicated, time and again, if the “fox” properly guarded the “henhouse” and wrongdoers admitted wrongdoing and apologized, maybe the adversarial nature of this case and cases like it would be less impactive. Most people retain lawyers because doctors and hospitals won’t do the right thing without legal retention. Peer review and/or medical boards don’t compensate victims and the doctor gets paid whether he botches a surgery or not.

  7. Mark Bello says:
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    You continue to rail on about the wrong issue. I have said, time and again, that I have conditional SUPPORT your stance on frivolous litigation. This post (and the vast majority of my posts) is about caps on SERIOUS lawsuits. They are wrong, they reward the perpetrators, they harm victims, they encourage bad behavior and the make all of us less safe. Your rants and percentages have nothing to do with this post and nothing to do with every other post that you place the exact same comments on. I’ll let you know when I am planning to post on the wrongness of filing frivolous cases and wasting everyone’s time and money.