A jury in Ada County last week ruled that one of Idaho’s largest groups of emergency care providers should pay $13.5 million in a malpractice lawsuit that took nearly five years to get through court.
Lawsuits against doctors of Idaho Emergency Medical and LLC may be appealed. But for now, this is her second-largest medical malpractice jury award in Idaho history.
The largest award, nearly $30 million, came in a federal lawsuit over 20 years ago in which Idaho parents sued Blaine County doctors and hospitals for their children’s injuries resulting from medical care for their mothers.
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Idaho law caps the amount a jury can award a plaintiff for pain, suffering, and other damages, but the current limit is about $400,000.
The Ada County jury determined the same for the emergency medical group assigned to the St. Luke’s Health System emergency department in Treasure Valley.
“Of course, we are disappointed by this verdict. We will pursue all remedies to address our concerns regarding the incident and its consequences. Unfortunately, litigation is ongoing. Therefore, we are unable to comment further at this time,” Dr. Matt Hulquist, president of Idaho Emergency Medicine, said in an email to the Idaho Capital Sun.
The lawsuit, filed in 2018, originally named radiology group and private health care provider St. Luke’s as a defendant. Since then, all but EMI and their doctors have settled claims against them, according to court records.
6 years ago he had a stroke and went to the ER
The incident dates back to the early morning hours of March 29, 2016. That’s when Ada County resident Colleen Moulton discovered her husband, Carl B. Stiefel, on her bathroom floor. He suffered “severe headaches and vomiting” and became “increasingly confused,” according to the complaint.
She called an ambulance and Stiefel arrived at the hospital’s emergency department at 4:12 am.
Within about 11 minutes, a doctor began examining Stiefel. Stiefel recently suffered from sinus congestion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and ringing in his right ear.
About an hour later, another doctor said a CT scan of Stiefel’s head showed “no acute intracranial processes.”
Stiefel’s nausea improved in the emergency room, but he remained “dizzy and unable to walk”, and the first doctor to see him said he should be hospitalized for “benign positional vertigo.” The complaint states that it did.
Physicians, including the first to see him, determined that Stiefel might need an MRI if his condition did not improve after a day.
It took at least three hours for Stiefel to be moved from the emergency room to an observable hospital bed, according to the lawsuit. It took another four to five hours before Stiefel saw another doctor, according to the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, Stiefel was confused and restless and was unable to answer health questions as the day wore on. Doctors ordered an MRI of his brain, according to a nursing note cited in the lawsuit. but the machine was out of service for hours.
Stiefel had an MRI around 5:50 pm, which showed he had suffered a stroke and torn an artery in his neck.
Surgeons operated on him over the next two days. However, Stiefel’s health deteriorated and he spent the next three weeks in a hospital, a local rehabilitation facility, returning to the hospital with a case of bacterial meningitis, the lawsuit said.
When Moulton and Stiefel filed the lawsuit, he had “irreversible brain damage,” was mobility impaired, disabled and could no longer work, the lawsuit says.
Idaho Emergency Medical Denies Responsibility
In responding to the lawsuit, EMI and the attending physician who treated Stiefel in the emergency room said he “unequivocally denies all allegations of responsibility and liability” in this case.
Doctors and EMI said Stiefel’s injuries had causes beyond the responsibility of the medical team.
They argued that the treatment Stiefel received from an ER doctor was standard for patients with medical conditions, and that the doctor “has never been guilty of negligence or improper treatment.” . They said the injuries were the result of complications and not inadequate medical care.
But after a trial in late January, an Ada County jury ruled that a doctor who was part of EMI’s medical team was reckless and did not meet medical standards, and that it caused Stiefel’s injuries. became.
Eric S. Rossman of the Rossman Law Group PLLC in Boise, on behalf of Stiefel and Moulton, said in an emailed statement, “We are very pleased with the verdict and are pleased with the just verdict from the jury in this case. I am very grateful,” he said.