There's a popular belief in some personal injury circles that says that very elderly clients cannot collect much as personal injury claimants due to their limited years remaining. It's often said that juries will not be sympathetic to the suffering of plaintiffs 80 and older. As in all things, that bubble was punctured by a recent jury ruling awarding $1 million in damages to an 82-year-old woman for a botched surgery that gave her permanent nerve damage. The case was not tried in Massachusetts but the medical malpractice principles of negligence are the same as here.
An orthopedic surgeon and his practice group were found medically negligent and liable for a 2009 surgery to the woman that was a routine procedure intended to fix her carpal tunnel syndrome ailment. Instead, the surgeon cut the woman's median nerve, and later defended the action in court calling it a "complication" that did not constitute malpractice. However, the jury believed otherwise and accepted the testimony that the injury had profound effects on her life.
The case took place in an Illinois courtroom. Additional evidence proved that the woman had to have follow-up surgery to try and repair the damage but that it was only partially successful. Medical malpractice can generally be proved by showing that the doctor's performance was below the minimal standard of care practiced and expected by doctors in that specialty in the community.
To do that, a claimant must usually put on the testimony of a medical expert to prove that the services provided were below the standards of professional competence minimally acceptable. There are many variations and side issues that come into play in determining whether a viable medical malpractice claim can be pursued in Massachusetts. The mere fact that the doctor made a mistake in procedure is not enough. Several other elements must be proved, including that the doctor's negligent actions or omissions were a substantial factor in causing the serious injury suffered by the patient.
Source: Plainfield, IL Patch, "Plainfield Surgeon Guilty of Medical Negligence; Patient Awarded $1 Million," Shannon Antinori, June 25, 2013