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V.T. v Kaiser

Dr. Fagel and his associates obtained a settlement of $4,750,000 on behalf of a 22-year-old male who sustained hypoxic brain damage during post-operative care when hospital staff failed to notice that his airway became obstructed. The plaintiff initially suffered a brain injury when he fell off the back of a truck. He underwent brain surgery to remove blood around his brain and remove a portion of his skull to decrease intracranial pressure and was then transferred to the defendant hospital. His condition slowly improved to the point where he could respond to questions and be fed orally, but he remained on a ventilator. One day, while in the ICU, the plaintiff’s nurse went into another patient’s room and remained there for some time to fix an IV problem. During this time, the plaintiff’s airway became obstructed and his heart rate dropped, triggering hospital alarms. After several minutes, a Code Blue was finally called and the plaintiff was resuscitated. However, subsequent MRI scans showed hypoxic brain injuries and the plaintiff has remained comatose since the episode.

The defense argued that the plaintiff’s pre-existing brain injury was so severe that he would have only had a limited recovery, regardless of the errors committed by hospital staff. However, Dr. Fagel proved that the staff’s negligence not only furthered but was a significant cause of the plaintiff’s current injuries. The nurse and hospital were negligent for failing to monitor the plaintiff and not promptly responding to the alarms. In the end, the delay in resuscitation was the main cause of the hypoxic brain injury.