Kathy Arient, then 58, sought out medical attention in October 2012, complaining of severe stomach pains. She was referred to Dr. Yasser Alhaj-Hussein, who worked at the Orland Park Surgical Center in Illinois. According to a medical malpractice lawsuit, filed on behalf of Arient’s family, during a celiac plexus block procedure, intended to help manage the pain, Alhaj-Hussein allegedly paralyzed Arient by mistake. According to medical records, Alhaj-Hussein injected absolute alcohol in her lower back. It was during that injection that Arient’s lawyers claimed in court that Alhaj-Hussein punctured the wrong side of her vertebra with the needle, which caused her to never walk again. In June 2014, 20 months later, Arient died of a stroke.
Terry Arient, her husband, sued Orland Park Surgical Center, Dr. Alhaj-Hussein, and his employer, Illinois Anesthesia and Pain Associates, for negligence and wrongful death. Before the medical malpractice lawsuit went to trial, the defendants offered Terry Arient $150,000, which he turned down. Judge Elizabeth McWilliams recommended that they settle for $500,000, but the defendants refused to increase their offer. After a 10 day trial the jury found the defendants liable for medical malpractice that led to the wrongful death of Kathy Arient. Her family was awarded $7.8 million, including $684,761 for past medical expenses.
That verdict was delivered more than a year ago.
Dr. Alhaj-Hussien and Orland Park Surgical Center went on to appeal the ruling to the First District Appellate Court in Illinois and a three-justice panel. After scrutinizing the case and the trial, in a two-one ruling, the $7.8 million award was upheld in favor of the Arient family by the justices. More than five years after the nerve blocking surgery that allegedly paralyzed Arient, her family will be paid for their loss.
“Terry Arient and his family are very salt-of-the-earth people,” said one of the lawyers who represented the plaintiff. “It was very gratifying for him to get this result because he knew it was important for her.”