May 4

Jury awards $3.5 million verdict against St. Alexius

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A jury awarded $3.5 million in damages to a woman who suffered a stroke after a major artery was accidentally severed during surgery at St. Alexius Hospital.

On Friday, at the end of a two-week trial in Burleigh County, a nine-person panel decided Dr. Allen Michael Booth, a thoracic and cardiac surgeon, and the hospital negligently performed a lymph node biopsy on Chenille Condon, 35, of Fort Yates, in 2012.

“It was a case of a very tragic medical error that took away Ms. Condon’s upward trajectory in life,” said her attorney, Tom Conlin. “This jury was incredibly courageous … They had to issue a verdict against a major health care provider in Bismarck.”

A statement from CHI St. Alexius Health, made on behalf of the doctor and the hospital, said the organization disagrees with the jury’s finding and is “reviewing our legal options moving forward.”

“As an organization, we fully support Dr. Booth,” the organization said in a statement. “Providing patients with the very best care is our highest priority each day. We are committed to the people and community we serve.”

The incident began when Condon suffered chest pain and shortness of breath following delivery of her fourth child. After finding enlarged lymph nodes on a CT scan, Booth decided to biopsy the lymph nodes. During this procedure, he accidentally cut her innominate artery, which provides blood to the head, neck and right side of the brain.

A second surgeon assisted with an emergency repair to stop the bleeding. However, the cutting of the artery caused a stroke, which resulted in paralysis on her left side and loss of some cognitive function, Conlin said. Since then, she has regained her ability to walk, but still struggles to use her left arm and has lost some of her IQ.

It turned out Condon did not have a cancer in her lymph nodes, but rather a fungal infection.

In court documents, Booth and St. Alexius argued the doctor was not negligent and that Condon gave informed consent to the surgery.

“A life-threatening complication arose in which a vessel was injured, requiring that these surgeons save Ms. Condon’s life,” the trial brief states. “Ms. Condon was placed in the intensive care unit, where she unfortunately had a stroke. She underwent rehabilitation and, within months, has made an excellent recovery.”

But Conlin, a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney based in Minneapolis, argued the opposite: “It’s such a large artery, you should never miss it,” he said.

Conlin, who represented Condon along with Bismarck attorney Bob Bolinske Jr., said the botched surgery has hampered her promising life.

Before the surgery, Condon was a nutrition student at United Tribes Technical College, according to Conlin, who said his client had a year left in her associates degree, which took her two years to complete due to the brain injury.

She still hopes to complete a four-year degree, but has had difficulty working since the stroke.

Conlin said the damages are meant to reimburse Condon for past and future losses, both economic and non-economic, to include medical expenses. The jury awarded $265,000 for past economic loss, $1.735 million for future economic loss, $150,000 for past non-economic loss and $1.35 million for future non-economic loss.

“It will give her some hope again, that she can regain some independence to provide for her family,” Conlin said.

A North Dakota statute limits non-economic losses to $500,000 total, according to Conlin, and he expects St. Alexius to appeal the amount of the verdict.

Read the entire article here: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/jury-awards-million-verdict-against-st-alexius/article_e447d4e1-8a52-5508-8b8c-e83b0b654abe.html

Source: Bismarck Tribune, “Jury awards $3.5 million verdict against St. Alexius” Caroline Grueskin, May 1, 2017.