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Arizona Jury Finds Medical Center Liable For 2013 Malpractice; Family Awarded $12 Million

Esmeralda Tripp, then 42, went to see her doctor for a checkup in September 2013. Tripp was taking a prescribed blood thinner called Coumadin and she had a history of seizures. Her primary physician was concerned that her blood was actually too thin and told Tripp that she needed to go straight to an emergency room. She brought herself to the University of Arizona’s Medical Center in Tucson and complained of pain in her abdomen, along her sides, and down her back.

According to a medical malpractice lawsuit, filed on behalf of Tripp and her family, the attending physician decided to give her a blood clotting medication, which allegedly triggered a heart attack causing permanent brain damage. Her lawyers claimed that if not for the negligence of the emergency room doctor, Tripp would not have suffered from the severe brain damage that has left her in a vegetative state.

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At the time of the incident the medical center was operated by the University of Arizona Health Network, which is now Banner-University Medical Center Tucson after a merger with Banner Health. The attorneys representing Banner, who is now liable for any past negligence at the medical center, claimed in court that Tripp provided “inaccurate information to her emergency physicians about her health history,” including “major health events and a drug allergy.”

Tripp’s lawyers and daughter rejected that claim.

“They made this whole case about her,” said one of the lawyers representing Tripp. “They were trying this case on dragging her through the mud. They knew she couldn’t respond.”

After more than four years of litigation, the lawsuit was finally brought to trial last month in an Arizona county courthouse. The trial lasted for three weeks and the jury deliberated for three and a half hours before returning with a verdict in favor of Tripp, who has four children and seven grandchildren. The Arizona jury found the medical center 80 percent at fault and awarded Tripp $12 million.

“Now she can get the round-the-clock care she needs,” said one of the plaintiff’s attorneys. “Her family shouldn’t be homebound because of this tragedy.”

The defendant indicated that an appeal is likely.

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