New Mexico Jury Finds Albuquerque Hospital Negligent; Awards Family $7.75 Million
Michael Webb waited as long as he could. The pain in his knee was not going away. Finally, in December 2011 he decided to have surgery performed. After the procedure, complications forced Webb in to the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Presbyterian Hospital located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Webb arrived at the ICU barely conscious and required constant care. But according to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed on behalf of Webb and Tammy Lee Bruyere, his wife, the medical staff at the hospital allegedly neglected to rotate his position, causing a painful pressure ulcer to form.
The lawsuit, filed in 2012, claims that Webb was not moved for several days, despite the fact that it is the hospital’s policy to reposition ICU patients who are in a similar condition at least every few hours. Webb’s attorneys claimed in court that because the plaintiff was not moved for days at a time, a Stage 4 pressure ulcer developed on his lower back in less than a week. The ulcer required medical treatment, including the painful process of removing bacteria, as well as dead and damaged tissue from the wound, which has still not fully healed more than five years later.
After hearing a week-long trial, a New Mexico jury deliberated for just one day before finding the Presbyterian Hospital negligent. Webb and his wife were awarded $7.75 million in total damages. $4 million was assigned to Webb for compensatory damages, $2.25 million to Webb and Bruyere in punitive damages, and an additional $1.5 million to Bruyere, who has been forced to take care of her husband full-time since the alleged negligence.
“The one place a helpless patient should be safe from pressure ulcers is the intensive care unit in the second-largest hospital in the state,” said one of the lawyers representing Webb and Bruyere. “When you are paying for intensive care, you should get intensive care.”
After the trial, the jury explained that the large monetary compensation was awarded to not only recompense the family’s pain and suffering, but to also send a message to the hospital that this type of negligence should never happen again. Meanwhile, the hospital denies any wrongdoing, but it is not clear if the Presbyterian Hospital will appeal the verdict.
“We have confidence in the safe, quality care provided at Presbyterian Hospital. In this case, we are confident that our clinicians cared for the patient appropriately,” wrote Kerri Dufault, a spokesperson for the hospital. “We appreciate the efforts of the jury in this case, but respectfully disagree with the decision. We are currently evaluating how we will proceed.”