Jury Finds Two Florida Doctors Negligent for Stroke; McCallum Awarded $7.92 Million
In May 2013, Graciela McCallum’s doctors decided to take her off a blood thinner called Coumadin. She had been taking the preventative drug for nearly 15 years to prevent blood clots from forming that could cause her to suffer from a stroke. McCallum, who was then 73, was taken off the drug because her doctors were concerned that if she cut herself she may not be able to stop the bleeding. But according to a 2015 medical malpractice lawsuit, filed on behalf of McCallum, that decision made by her cardiologist and electrophysiologist allegedly led to a massive stroke five months later.
The attorneys representing McCallum argued in court that she would not have had the stroke if she had continued on Coumadin. The suit contends that her doctors, Peter V. Garcia and Jose L. Marquez, were negligent when they decided to take McCallum off the blood thinner. She had been battling atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat, for nearly twenty years and had a pacemaker implanted that regulated her heart. The stroke left her paralyzed on the left side of her body and she now requires 24-hour care.
“The stroke just destroyed her life,” said one of McCallum’s attorneys. “The shame of this case is she’s damaged, not through anything other than medical stupidity and carelessness.”
After more than 18 months of litigation a Miami-Dade jury found the doctors negligent and returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. McCallum was awarded $5 million for future pain and suffering, $1.23 million for past pain and suffering, $1 million for future medical expenses, and $694,263 to reimburse her for her past medical expenses. Of the $7,919,263 verdict, Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola assigned 76 percent of the blame to Dr. Garcia and the remaining 24 percent of the liability to Dr. Marquez.
“This is one of those horrible situations where they were just doing assembly line medicine,” said a lawyer representing McCallum. “The problem is doctors . . . know they’re not going to be questioned, and that leads to them being sloppy.”
The defendant’s lawyers argued that the stroke would have likely occurred regardless of the blood thinner and that her advanced age and life expectancy should warrant a smaller verdict. The judge and jury disagreed and decided to award McCallum one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts to a plaintiff over the age of 70 in Miami-Dade history. It is not yet clear whether Garcia or Marquez will appeal the ruling.