Articles Posted in Alabama

Absolute awful story here. A 300 to 400 pound arrival and departure sign fell on four members of a family, returning from a spring break vacation, while other family members looked on. The injuries sustained were just horrific, including the death of a ten year old boy.

Included in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed this week are nine contractors, designers, and construction companies. The suit states the defendants knew or should have known that airport visitors would be standing near the cabinet to read flight information. It further alleges that the defendants had numerous conversations regarding concerns over the instability of the cabinet and a foreseeable risk of fatal danger to the general public. There are three other cabinets, one of which was to be screwed into the concrete floor, and efforts were made to secure the second and third cabinets into the wall, ceiling, or floor. The fourth cabinet, the one that fell, was left freestanding without any anchors to the floor, wall or ceiling.

I’m sure that this case will involve a whole lot of finger pointing among the defendants, as well as a lot of he said, she said. However it wraps, this is just a horrific thing to happen.

These antitrust lawsuits against Blue Cross are starting to gain steam. The MDL panel last week created an MDL in Alabama for the slew of antitrust claims that allege that the insurer is stepping on the Sherman Act in the way that licensing agreements with its licensees are set up.

Basically, the lawsuits allege that certain licensees have struck “most-favored nations” deals with hospitals that would chill competition among health insurers, allowing Blue Cross Blue Shield the ability to increase premiums and lock out competing providers.

So a number of lawsuits have been filed, each challenging the way Blue Cross and Blue Shield

electric shock lawsuitAn Alabama jury awarded $1.5 million to a man shocked by low-hanging power lines. The Plaintiff was paving a road in Alabama when his vehicle struck Black Warrior Electric power lines, sending 7,600 volts of electricity through his right arm.

Suffice to say, that is a lot of electricity, although voltage alone is cause for injury, it is the voltage multiplied by the current. Obviously, his insulation in the vehicle would be important. Still, it has to affect a jury to learn that the guy got shocked by an amount of voltage that is substantially less than the voltage given in the electric chair (about 2000 volts).

Plaintiff’s successfully argued at trial that this accident would not have happened if the power company had complied with national codes require that power lines that carry that amount of voltage be placed a certain height above the ground. The jury apparently agreed.

Jury Verdict Research conducted a study of Alabama jury trials and found that the average personal injury verdict was $309,062. As always, the high verdicts stretch the average, including a $12,000,000 verdict. The median compensatory award for personal injury trials in Alabama is $25,771. Plaintiff’s win – winning defined as recovering some money damages – 47 percent of cases that go to trial in Alabama. Putting those numbers in context, the national median is $40,000 and the nationwide plaintiff recovery probability is 48 percent. The study is based on award data from 2003 through 2009.

Alabama Personal Injury Settlements and Verdicts

Because our lawyers handle cases in different jurisdictions, I have a keen interest in average verdicts and settlements in different states. The dynamics of every state are different.

I found this data from the Alabama Jury Verdict Reporter providing average malpractice verdict data in Alabama for 2005:

Statewide totals Medical Trials Win-Loss % Aggregate Verdicts Plaintiff’s Average Average
Statewide totals 142 43-99 30.3% $63,825,318 $1,484,309 $449,474
Statewide Adjusted Total (Less the largest result $14,500,000 Case No. 638) 141 42-99 29.8% $49,325,318 $1,174,412 $349,824
Jefferson County only 43 14-29 32.6% $18,775,299 $1,341,092 $436,634
State excluding Jefferson County 99 29-70 29.3% $45,050,019 $1,553,448 $455,050
Death Verdicts Only 66 9-57 13.6% $40,825,000 $4,536,111 $615,560
Non-Death Verdicts only 76 34-42 44.7% $23,000,318 $676,479 $302,635

So, essentially, the average medical malpractice lawsuit in Alabama that went to trial was $449,474 overall with the plaintiff’s winning 30.3% of trials. In trials won by Plaintiff, the average verdict was $1,484,309. (In case this is not clear, the former statistic includes in the average malpractice cases that were lost.

Alabama settlements

It is very interesting to learn that wrongful death medical malpractice plaintiffs prevailed in only 13.6% of cases and living (presumably unless they died of an unrelated cause before trial) medical malpractice plaintiffs won 44.7% of their cases. But medical malpractice lawyers in Alabama deciding whether to take on a case should note that the average plaintiff’s verdict in wrongful death malpractice cases in Alabama is $4,536,111.

Alabama Medical Malpractice Settlements and Verdicts

  • 2019, Alabama: $9,000,000 Verdict. A woman’s estate alleged that she died after three physicians failed to diagnose her pulmonary emboli. A month and a half before her death, she consulted a physician about birth control. She then underwent a test to determine her blood clot risk because of her mother’s medical history. The woman tested positive for Factor V Leiden, a gene mutation that put her at risk for blood clots. She was never informed of the results and was prescribed birth control pills about two weeks later. A month later, the woman presented to urgent care, complaining of shortness of breath, chest pain, a cough, headaches, and a sore throat. The urgent care physician diagnosed her with bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics. Two days later, the woman visited the same urgent care facility, complaining of shortness of breath and sharp chest pain. She came under the care of another physician, who failed to physically examine her. Instead, she underwent a complete blood count test, received leukocytosis and dyspnea, and was prescribed an inhaler. The woman died of a pulmonary embolism the following day. Her estate alleged that the physicians failed to chart her medical history, failed to perform a full physical examination, failed to diagnose her with pulmonary emboli, and failed to assess her pulmonary emboli risk. The jury ruled in favor of the estate and awarded a $9,000,000 verdict.
  • 2019, Alabama: $30,000,000 Verdict. A 24-year-old man’s estate alleged that he died in the emergency room while waiting for a surgeon. He was brought to the emergency room after having sustained a gunshot wound to his back. The on-call trauma surgeon was notified of the man’s condition before he arrived. Upon his arrival, the surgeon was paged to go to the emergency room. He responded that he was in the middle of surgery and told the ER physician to page another surgeon. No other surgeons were available, and he was paged again. The surgeon responded that he had just begun another surgery. Upon being paged again, he directed the ER physician to transfer to another hospital because his injuries were too severe to treat at the hospital. The surgeon then notified the emergency room staff that he would come to the ER for a surgical consultation. However, he never arrived, and the man died ten minutes later. His estate sued the trauma surgeon and the hospital for failing to timely diagnose and treat the man’s condition and falling to order an immediate surgical procedure. The Tuscaloosa County jury ruled in favor of the estate and awarded $30,000,000 in punitive damages.
  • 2018, Alabama: $11,000,000 Settlement. A 60-year-old tugboat’s deckhand alleged he had several parts of his body amputated after an urgent care facility in Jacksonville, Florida mismanaged his care. His employer sent him to the facility to treat his chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath. He underwent a chest X-ray. However, before the imaging could be interpreted, the man was diagnosed with bronchitis and was prescribed azithromycin. Within hours, he returned to the facility after they contacted him. They informed him that he had pneumonia, not bronchitis. The facility staff also told him to continue taking his azithromycin. They also permitted him to fly home to Alabama. During the flight, he went into septic shock and collapsed. Shortly after landing, an ambulance brought him to the hospital. The hospital staff gave him several different kinds of antibiotics. Within several days, his fingers and toes developed gangrene. Weeks later, he underwent five operations to amputate parts of his right foot, his left leg, and his fingers. After being hospitalized for two months, he was admitted to a rehabilitation facility where he received inpatient treatment for two additional months. He eventually was fitted with a prosthetic left leg and right foot. The man sued his employer, alleging that, under maritime law, maritime employers were liable for the malpractice of the medical facilities they choose to treat their employees. He also alleged that the urgent care facility misdiagnosed his pneumonia and failed to consider his pre-existing arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The man claimed that they prescribed him the wrong antibiotic and wrongly permitted him to fly. This case settled for $11,000,000.
  • 2018, Alabama: $250,000 Verdict. A woman’s estate alleged that she died after the cardiac surgeon mismanaged her thoracotomy. They claimed that the surgeon negligently inserted the thoracoport trocar into her heart, which caused her to bleed to death. The estate filed a wrongful death claim against the surgeon less than two years after her death. They also filed an amended complaint against the surgeon’s employer. The surgeon was eventually dismissed from the case with prejudice and the case went to trial against his employer. A Montgomery County jury awarded the estate a $250,000 verdict.

The Alabama Supreme Court has decided three medical malpractice cases in the last few months: Giles v. Brookwood Health Services, Weber v. Freeman, and Panayiotou v. Johnson. All three were decided in favor of the defendant doctor. All three decide as to who was at fault for the plaintiffs’ injuries/death out of the hands of the jury. I thought the Alabama medical malpractice lawyers in all three cases made quality arguments that the cases should go to a jury.

Giles was a complicated case involving three defendants. What I found frustrating about the opinion is that the court told the Plaintiff’s expert that “you really say what you think you said” about the standard of care. Why take this kind of medical malpractice case out of a jury’s hands?

Weber involved a nice Alabama rule to allow medical malpractice lawyers to name fictional defendants when the lawyer does not know who the real defendants are. Alabama Rule 9(h), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides:

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