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Paralyzed Woman Awarded Second Largest Medical Malpractice Judgement in Colorado’s History

In September 2013, Robbin Smith was preparing to travel to what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life. It was her son’s wedding that fall. As a chronic pain sufferer, Smith visited the Surgery Center at Lone Tree LLC in Colorado for a consultation, seeking relief. The attending physician recommended an epidural injection to her spine. And after a discussion with her husband, hoping to be pain-free for the wedding, she agreed. What she did not agree to, however, was the use of a dangerous corticosteroid like Kenalog, which since 2011 has had a warning label printed on the bottle that read, “NOT FOR EPIDURAL USE.”

The maker of the drug, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, found that Kenalog could cause severe neurological reactions, including paralysis, if administered by an epidural. But for some reason the warning label was ignored by the medial staff at Lone Tree LLC, which operates an outpatient medical center. Smith was not told about the warning label and the center failed to obtain her informed consent before the injection, which caused Smith to become paralyzed from the waist down.

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Robbin Smith and her husband, Ed, then filed a malpractice lawsuit against the medical center and after hearing the case, a Colorado jury found Lone Tree LLC negligent. The Smiths were awarded $14.9 million, which is reportedly the second largest medical negligence verdict ever handed down in Colorado’s history. Of the $14.9 million judgement, the jury awarded the couple nearly $5 million for future and past medical expenses. The rest of the judgement was for noneconomic damages, but because Colorado has a cap on noneconomic damages, the Smiths will only receive a portion of the rest of the money.

“This verdict won’t restore Robbin’s ability to walk,” said Smith’s lawyer. “But it will give Robbin and Ed the chance to make the most of the life they now have.”

After the injection, Smith had to spend the next two-months of her life in a hospital bed while undergoing rehabilitation, and she was forced to watch her son’s wedding by a livestream on her phone. At the conclusion of the two-week trial the jury only took two-hours to come up with a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Because of the injection Robbin Smith will need medical care 24 hours a day, seven-days a week, for the rest of her life.

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