Court Orders New Trial in Medical Malpractice Case After Jury Returns Zero-Dollar Damages Award for Plaintiff’s Pain and Suffering

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion that raised an interesting issue that comes up in Florida personal injury cases from time to time. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss under which circumstances a jury’s zero-dollar damages award is insufficient as a matter of law and must be rejected.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff woke up one evening with an excruciating headache, the worst she had ever experienced. She began to vomit and was also nauseous. Her symptoms did not subside after two days, and at that point, she went to the defendant hospital, thinking she had a bad case of food poisoning.

Despite telling the nurses that she had a terrible headache, that fact was not documented in the plaintiff’s chart. Instead, the plaintiff’s chart contained notes of gastrointestinal symptoms. The plaintiff was eventually released from the hospital without a diagnosis and was instructed to follow up with a primary care doctor in the near future.

The plaintiff made an appointment the following Monday, but before that, she began to experience another excruciating headache, accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Eventually, the plaintiff called 911 and was taken back to the hospital, where a CT scan indicated that she had suffered from several strokes over the past few days. As a result of the strokes, the plaintiff was totally incapacitated. She could not walk, speak, or feed herself.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. The hospital’s defense was that the plaintiff had a history of high blood pressure, for which she failed to get treatment, and that led to her having the strokes. The case proceeded to a jury trial, where the jury awarded the plaintiff all of her requested damages for medical expenses, totaling almost $1.2 million, but awarded her zero dollars for her pain and suffering. The jury determined that the defendant hospital was 51% at fault and the plaintiff 49% at fault.

The plaintiff appealed the jury’s verdict, arguing that it was grossly insufficient given the evidence of pain and suffering presented to the jury. The court agreed, finding that the jury clearly believed that the defendant’s negligence was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, as indicated by the medical expenses award.

That being the case, the court explained that the jury must have found that the defendant was responsible for the plaintiff’s condition. The court explained that for the jury to accept the plaintiff’s evidence insofar as it applied to the medical expenses meant that it would then have to accept it as it pertained to the pain and suffering award as well. Thus, the court determined that the jury’s award was grossly inadequate and ordered a new trial on both liability and damages.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit. The dedicated South Florida personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience helping victims and their families recover financially after serious accidents and incidents of medical malpractice. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Underinsured Motorist Claim Following Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 19, 2017.

Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Provide Specific Location of Injury, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2018.

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