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Federal Judge in New Hampshire Orders Government to Pay $21.5M in Medical Malpractice Suit by Wife of Veteran with “Locked-in Syndrome” – Farley v. U.S.A.

Written April 29, 2015

A federal district judge’s recent order against the federal government has been reported as the largest-ever judgment in a New Hampshire personal injury case. The suit, which named the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as the defendant, sought compensation for a man who allegedly suffered a stroke after medical personnel negligently failed to diagnose and treat him.

Allegations of the Plaintiff’s Complaint

In the case of Farley v. U.S.A., the wife of a Navy veteran filed suit against the United States, seeking relief under the Federal Tort Claims Act for damages her husband sustained due to the alleged medical negligence of two doctors at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire (the VA). According to the wife’s complaint, the veteran experienced a bad headache and loss of peripheral vision in October 2010. He presented to a doctor at the VA, who determined that he had suffered a stroke. Some time later, he saw a second VA doctor, a cardiologist.

The woman further alleged that, rather than adhere to the requisite standard of care for treating stroke patients, the VA doctors “medically abandoned” the veteran. About six weeks after the first stroke, the veteran suffered a massive second stroke, which left him with a condition known as “locked-in” syndrome in which he is fully conscious but basically unable to move. (He can move his eyes and head in a “very limited” way.)

The District Court’s Decision

After a four-day bench trial, the district judge issued an order holding that two VA doctors had committed medical malpractice in failing to prevent the veteran’s second stroke. In so holding, the court considered the testimony of eight medical expert witnesses who testified in the case concerning, among other things, the standard of care applicable to the treatment of ischemic strokes such as the one initially suffered by the veteran.

According to the court, proper post-stroke care includes ordering a CT scan, a CTA, an EKG, and an echocardiogram, as well as promptly engaging both a cardiologist and a neurologist and contacting the patient’s primary care physician to inform him or her of the stroke. While the VA doctors violated the applicable standard of care in several ways, the court found that the most significant was their failure to prescribe the veteran Coumadin. Instead, he was told to take baby aspirin.

The court entered judgment for the veteran in the amount of $21,468,710.62 and for the wife in the amount of $100,000. A portion of the veteran’s award was to be placed in a trust for his future medical care.

For Help with a New York Medical Negligence Case

Medical malpractices cases are among the most hotly contested of all personal injury lawsuits. Doctors and other medical providers do not like to admit they made a mistake that injured or even killed a patient, and insurance companies do not like to write checks in the amount that it takes to fully compensate malpractice victims. To speak to an attorney experienced in New York medical malpractice cases about whether your potential case is worth pursing, call Duffy & Duffy at (516) 394-4200 and request a free initial consultation. We are currently reviewing cases throughout the New York area, including Long Island, the Bronx, and Queens.

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