OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Douglas County jury has awarded $26.1 million to a Sarpy County family who sued Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha after their child was sent home following an accidental fall and then suffered seizures that left her permanently disabled, though that amount could be drastically reduced under a state cap on such verdicts.
The award is a record for medical malpractice in Nebraska, topping the $17 million a federal jury awarded in an August 2015 trial over a baby who suffered brain damage during birth at the Bellevue Medical Center.
The jury on Monday awarded $21.5 million for a lifetime of medical care and damages to 5-year-old Vivianne Marousek and another $4.6 million to her parents, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The jury found that the hospital and one of its doctors improperly discharged Vivianne in 2017 after she suffered brain trauma in an accidental fall at her day care.
Within two days of being sent home, she suffered severe seizures and irreparable brain damage, leaving her blind, unable to communicate and in a wheelchair.
An attorney for the family, Joe Cullan, said Children’s Hospital compounded the toll on his clients by suggesting that they or a babysitter may have abused the child. Sarpy County authorities initially cited the babysitter, but later dismissed the case.
Cullan said “there was absolutely no evidence” that the child suffered from anything other than an accidental fall from a toy she had been standing on.
The jury's award could be drastically reduced under Nebraska’s $2.25 million cap on medical malpractice verdicts.
An attorney for Children’s Hospital is expected to ask the judge to impose Nebraska’s $2.25 million cap. That would reduce the total award to $2.25 million for Vivianne and $2.25 million for her parents, for a total of $4.5 million.
Cullan said he will ask the judge to declare the cap on medical malpractice verdicts unconstitutional, noting that a lifetime of medical bills will far exceed the cap.
In a prepared statement, Children’s Hospital said it sympathized with the child, but “strongly maintain that the evidence presented clearly showed that our team provided the appropriate standard of care.”