A woman who suffered brain damage and permanent incapacitation after being treated at three New York area hospitals was awarded close to $120 million by a Bronx jury in one of the largest awards ever issued in a malpractice case in New York.

The patient, a 45-year old mother of two, sought treatment for a seizure disorder in 2004. The lawsuit alleged that in the course of less than a month, three hospitals and their medical staff mismanaged the patient’s care. The patient developed an allergic reaction to the anti-seizure medication prescribed for her, causing swelling in her face, eyes, and throat.

She was later diagnosed with erythema multiforme (Stevens-Johnson syndrome), a life- threatening skin condition, which can lead to sepsis and organ failure.  In this case, the patient ultimately suffered irreversible brain damage.

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The ruling attributed primary responsibility to two New York City hospitals according to a report in The New York Times (Accessed June 18 2012).  

Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx was charged with 50% of the responsibility and 40% went to Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn. Another 5% of liability was attributed to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, and 4% to one Brookdale’s neurologists.

In a strange twist, which the plaintiff’s attorney attributed to a “jury misunderstanding,” the jury also attributed 1% of the fault to the patient herself. Although the patient earned less than $40,000 a year as a claims adjuster, the jury awarded her $10 million in lost earnings. The defense attorney argued that medical personnel had mismanaged the patient’s medications, failed to respond swiftly to a series of medical crises, and had not adequately provided essential treatments.

According to counsel for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, the city plans to appeal. According to the Corporation’s deputy counsel, Suzanne Bundi, “the amount of this judgment is not consistent with the facts and the law.”