Judgment Upheld in Arkansas Brain Surgery Lawsuit

December 17, 2012

The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld an $11 million judgment in a medical malpractice lawsuit against an insurer for Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), in a suit  brought by a Mabelvale couple after a doctor operated on the wrong side of their son’s brain.

The Dec. 13 ruling rejected appeals by by Proassurance Indemnity Co. and of the parents of Cody Metheny.

The Metheny’s wanted the court to restore the original $20 million judgment after it was reduced by a judge to $11 million. The insurance company argued for a new trial so a jury could consider whether doctors involved in the surgery should share blame.

The court rejected both arguments.

Cody Metheny was 15 when he underwent surgery in an effort to end seizures that originated in the right side of his brain. The surgeon, Dr. Badih Adada, who performed surgeries at ACH but was employed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), operated on the wrong side of the brain at first, the left side, and destroyed brain tissue in the process, according to documents released by the Court. After realizing his mistake, Dr. Adada proceeded to operate on the correct side of the brain.

After the surgery, Dr. Adada admitted to Metheny’s parents he had initially started the operation on the left side of the brain but said he had not harmed it, and had successfully removed the right-side lesion, according to Court documents.

Metheny now lives in a rehabilitation center.

Some 15 months after the surgery, the Methenys found out that tissue had wrongly been removed from the left side of the boy’s brain.

In their original suit against the hospital and the surgeon, the Methenys “sought both compensatory and punitive damages based on two counts of medical negligence, as well as one count of outrage,” the Court noted.

The circuit court dismissed the outrage claim. Dr. Adada and other physicians named in the lawsuit settled with the Methenys but the case proceeded against ACH.

At trial the jury found in favor of the Methenys and awarded the $20 million in damages, which the circuit court reduced to $11 million, “an amount consistent with ProAssurance’s liability coverage for ACH,” according to the Court’s opinion, written by Associate Justice Donald L. Corbin.

ProAssurance in its appeal asserted that the circuit court failed to “instruct the jury in a manner that would allow it to apportion liability among it and certain physicians who were sued in a prior case but ultimately settled;” refused to “allow ProAssurance to present evidence of fault attributable to the settling physicians; and “denied denying ProAssurance’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) where the evidence supporting Cody’s future damages was based on improperly bundled calculations.”

Rejecting ProAssurance’s appeal, the Court noted that it found no errors in the actions of the circuit court.

An Associated Press report contributed to this story.

 

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Latest Comments

  • November 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm
    Chris says:
    This doctor removed my brain tumor and saved my life. Just thought some of you may need some perspective. Doctors are human. Humans charged with extremely difficult decisio... read more
  • December 18, 2012 at 9:51 am
    Agent says:
    This young 15 year old cannot be made whole again when part of his brain was removed in error. Rehab for years and he still may never regain full cognitive ability.
  • December 18, 2012 at 4:53 am
    claimsguy says:
    It's not about the pockets, deep or otherwise, it's about making the injured party whole. It's not about protecting the tort-feasor, it's about protecting the injured party.
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