A Colorado Springs family won a $17.8 million judgment against Children's Hospital Colorado after a medication error caused their 4-day-old girl to suffer brain injuries requiring round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
The judgment in favor of Naomi Pressey - now 7 years old - and her family ended seven years of litigation stemming from the mistake, which caused "significant intellectual disability, cognitive impairment, as well as serious gross and fine motor skill impairment," according to the family's law firm.
The lawyers, Jim Puga and Sean Leventhal, say the verdict by an Arapahoe County District Court jury is the largest medical malpractice judgment in Colorado's history. The claim could not be immediately verified.
"No family should have to go through what we've had to endure," said Naomi's mother, Jennifer Pressey, in a statement that also thanked her lawyers. "Our family has experienced incredible pain throughout this very difficult situation."
Naomi was born on Feb. 6, 2008, in Colorado Springs and was transferred to the Aurora hospital because of a "common congenital heart defect," according to the family's lawyers.
Before undergoing surgery, hospital staff gave the girl the wrong dose of prostaglandin, the lawyers said. She went into cardiac arrest, and staff members weren't able to resuscitate her for 33 minutes. She suffered a severe brain injury from a lack of oxygen, the law firm said, and as a result, Naomi has cerebral palsy and "significant" intellectual, cognitive and physical impairments.
The family declined to be interviewed Friday, said Rebecca Tonn, a spokeswoman for the law firm.
A Children's Hospital Colorado spokeswoman declined to comment on the employment status of the staff members involved in the 2008 incident, or whetheranyone was disciplined.
"We are sorry that the Pressey family suffered this unfortunate outcome seven years ago with their child," the hospital said in a statement. "And while we will not comment on the specifics of the recent case, we respectfully believe there are grounds to appeal the outcome."
The verdict could exceed $20 million when interest is included, the family's law firm said.
Many times, large judgments in medical malpractice cases in Colorado are reduced because of caps that limit some damages to $300,000, said Tom Herd, a civil trial lawyer not connected to the case.
The judgment for Naomi may be an exception, however. Only roughly $1 million of the judgment fell into a category called "noneconomic damages," which includes physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering, along with impaired quality of life.
The rest is not subject to caps, because it covered medical and health care expenses, as well as lost future earnings, until the year 2089, according to court documents.
"A lot of it is, it's going to be future care, which can be extraordinarily expensive," Herd said.
The last medical malpractice judgment to approach the amount awarded to the Pressey family appears to have stemmed from a case involving Memorial Health System, Tonn said.
In 2012, a Colorado Springs jury awarded $15 million to Jason Walters, who became paralyzed from the chest down after being incorrectly diagnosed with a neck sprain, according to Law Week Colorado.
Walters went to Memorial Hospital complaining of severe neck pain and numbness in his arms and legs, according to the publication. But a physician appeared to miss a herniated disk compressing his spinal cord, and hours after being discharged with a neck sprain, Walters suffered paralysis from the chest down, the weekly newspaper reported.
He also went untreated for two hours upon his return to the hospital, according to the newspaper.
In that case, Walters was only eligible to receive $300,000 of the $10 million awarded to him in non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, Law Week Colorado reported.