A Michigan jury awarded $1.8 million to John Shivers, a 75-year-old man who became paralyzed following bladder surgery.


The patient underwent a six-hour operation in 2003 at St. Mary’s of Michigan Hospital in Saginaw to correct blood in his urine. Within an hour after the procedure, his arms and hands became progressively weaker, he lost control of his right arm, and all sensation disappeared. Those symptoms suggest a spinal cord compression that can lead to paralysis, Shivers’ lawyers alleged in court papers.

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But anesthesiologist Susan K. Schmiege, MD, decided against immediate corrective surgery, the lawsuit alleged. By the time the surgery was performed some 15 hours later, Shivers was permanently paraplegic, unable to use his hands and arms. He can’t feed, clothe, or bathe himself and has also suffered permanent kidney damage, his lawyer said.


Shivers sued Dr. Schmiege and the hospital for medical negligence, claiming substandard care. After a seven-day trial this summer, a jury agreed, granting a $1.8 million judgment. But Shivers is likely to receive substantially less. Michigan caps non-economic damages at $500,000 in malpractice cases that result in paralysis. Consequently, a judge will probably reduce Shivers’ award to $1.3 million, his lawyer said.


The hospital settled out of court for $200,000 last year. A mediator had suggested a $200,000 settlement with Dr. Schmiege. Shivers accepted those terms, but Dr. Schmiege rejected it, and the case went to trial.