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Josephine Vera v. Beth Israel Medical Center and Dr. Harold Schwartz

Case Name

Josephine Vera v. Beth Israel Medical Center and Dr. Harold Schwartz

Type of Injury

ATTEMPTED SUICIDE PARAPLEGIA AND LEG AMPUTATION

Location

New York, NY

Verdict

$3,210,000 plus $400,000 for stipulated cost of past care and maintenance

Verdict Amount

$$3,210,000 plus $400,000 for stipulated cost of past care and maintenance

Case Details

XI/26-2 PSYCHIATRIC MALPRACTICE PREMATURE DISCHARGE OF PATIENT ATTEMPTED SUICIDE PARAPLEGIA AND LEG AMPUTATION ADDITUR FOR PAST PAIN AND SUFFERING

Josephine Vera v. Beth Israel Medical Center and Dr. Harold Schwartz 24767/85 3-week trial Verdict 11/15/93 Judge Ira Gammerman, New York Supreme

VERDICT: $3,210,000 plus $400,000 for stipulated cost of past care and maintenance. Breakdown: $100,000 for past pain and suffering; $100, 000 for future pain and suffering; $3,000,000 for future maintenance; $10, 000 for husband for loss of services. Jury: 3 male, 3 female.

In an oral post-trial decision on 2/7/94, Judge Gammerman increased the awards for past and future pain and suffering to $1,000,000, noting that the original awards were “clearly inadequate.” Transcript at p. 6.

Pltf. Atty: Arthur R. Rosenbaum of Barr & Rosenbaum, Spring Valley

Deft. Atty: Jay A. Rappaport of Aaronson, Rappaport, Feinstein & Deutsch, Manhattan

Facts: Pltf., age 34 at the time of the incident on 7/17/84, was a diagnosed schizophrenic. She had been hospitalized previously at other hospitals and had been a patient at Deft. Beth Israel from 4/4-4/29/84. She began suffering from auditory command hallucinations, and her sister, with whom she was living at the time, brought her to Deft. Beth Israel Hospital on 6/27/84. Pltf. remained there until 7/17/84, when she was discharged to her sister’s care. Two hours after she was discharged, Pltf. attempted suicide by jumping from her sister’s fifth floor fire escape.

Pltf. contended that Deft. negligently discharged her before determining if her medication was having its proper therapeutic effect. Pltf. had received oral Prolixin 70 mg for 7 days. This medication was stopped on 7/14/84, and on 7/15, she was given an injection of Prolixin Decanoate 50 mg. Pltf.’s expert testified that Deft. did not give an injectable dosage equivalent to the oral medication that she had been taking, contending that the dose should have been substantially more. Pltf.’s expert also contended that the injection of Prolixin would not have had any therapeutic effect until 48-96 hours after it was given. The oral Prolixin would only have had a therapeutic effect for 24 hours after her last dose at 6 PM on 7/14/84. Pltf. contended that Deft. was negligent for failing to monitor her for a longer period of time before her discharge.

Deft. Dr. Schwartz denied that he was negligent. It was also noted that on 7/13/84, the nurses, support staff, and social workers at Beth Israel went on strike.

The jury did not find that Pltf. was prematurely discharged based upon her psychological condition, but they did find that Deft. negligently failed to monitor Pltf. to determine the therapeutic effect of her medication before her discharge. Injuries: paraplegia; above-the-knee amputation of the right leg; multiple fractures of the arms and left leg; complete bowel and bladder incontinence. At the time of trial, Pltf. was institutionalized in a County nursing facility. Pltf.’s vocational rehabilitation expert testified that she required institutional care, although he contended that she could be attended at home with round-the- clock nursing care. Pltf. Experts: Dr. Allan Tuckman, psychiatrist, Pomona; Dr. Sidney M. Cohen, neuropsychiatrist, Manhattan; Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation, Manhattan; Dr. Richard Ruth, economist, Summit, New Jersey. Deft. Expert: Dr. Robert Chalemian, psychiatrist, Bellevue Hospital.