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Bedsore leads jury to award family $6.5 million in compensation

People think of hospitals as a place to go when they are sick because hospitals will make them well. Occasionally, negligence on the part of hospital workers can lead to severe complications and even death.

In March 2015, an article in the Arizona Daily Star reported that a jury in Tucson, AZ found Banner-University Medical Center guilty of medical negligence and wrongful death. The victim was 67-year-old Byron Van Tassell, a retired utility worker originally from upstate New York. His family was awarded $6.5 million in damages. A significant portion of the money will be used to cover medical costs racked up by Van Tassell.

Van Tassell's problems began on November 9, 2007, when he fell backward off a roof. He was admitted to Banner-University Medical Center, then called University Medical Center, and was diagnosed as paralyzed from the waist down. Approximately two weeks later, Van Tassell was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital but was soon readmitted to the Medical Center with a pulmonary embolism. While staying at the hospital, Van Tassell faced a number of life threatening complications before finally stabilizing and returning to the rehab hospital. There it was discovered he had a pre-existing pressure ulcer on his heel that had advanced to a serious stage and skin breakdown on the base of his spine. Pressure ulcers are known as "never events" in hospitals because they are preventable and something that should never occur. Yet hospital negligence allowed it to happen.

The wound on Tassell's spine became infected and could not be brought under control by antibiotics. He underwent surgery but his body never fully recovered. He spent the next four years bouncing between hospitals and nursing homes before he passed away in 2012. Medicare penalized Banner-University Medical Center, along with three other hospitals, for their high rates of injuries and infections acquired by patients during their hospital stay.

While accidents can and do happen, hospitals need to be made aware of and held responsible for situations where their patients suffered infection, injury or worse because of negligence. A personal injury lawyer may be able to work with you to help alleviate the financial burden imposed by a hospital's negligence and help ensure that no one else has to suffer.

Source: Arizona Daily Star, "Jury awards $6.5M in bedsore case vs. Banner-UMC," Stephanie Innes, March 24, 2015

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