Even before a jury had completed its deliberations, two Tampa, Fla.-area medical practices filed for bankruptcy after they were hit with a $116.7 million malpractice verdict in favor of a quadriplegic who blamed them for his condition.
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings -- designed to avoid paying what attorneys called the largest medical malpractice award in state history -- temporarily halted the trial. But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Glenn took the unusual action of setting aside the defendants' petitions so the Hillsborough, Fla., circuit court jury could finish its work.
After the jurors reconvened Tuesday afternoon, they deliberated for three hours and returned a $100.1 million punitive damages verdict.
On Sept. 29, the Tampa jury reached a compensatory verdict that awarded 50-year-old Tampa resident Allan Navarro a total of $15.6 million for past and future medical bills, $616,000 for lost wages in the past and future, and $46.5 million for past and future pain and suffering. His wife was awarded $52.5 million for loss of her husband's services, comfort, society and attentions. Navarro's son, Scottie, was awarded $1.5 million for loss of his father's services, comfort, companionship and society.
Navarro was paralyzed after physician's assistant Mark Herranz, who attorneys said failed his state licensing test four times, and Dr. Michael Austin failed to realize he was experiencing a stroke when they treated him at Tampa's University Community Hospital-Carrollwood in 2000. Navarro was diagnosed with sinusitis and sent home.
On Aug. 9, 2000, Navarro, who was a professional basketball player in his native Philippines, entered University Community Hospital-Carrollwood with a headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion and double vision. He described a personal medical history of hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol plus a family history of strokes to the triage nurse. A different nurse than the triage nurse also noted he was unsteady on his feet.
When Navarro spoke with Herranz in the examination room, he mentioned the sudden onset of a headache earlier that day and that he had felt a "pop" in his head.
According to the 2005 second amended complaint, Herranz did not complete an adequate medical history of Narvarro, nor did he do a complete or adequate neurological exam.
Navarro spent about 5 1/2 hours at UCH-Carrollwood, during which time he had two CT scans of his brain and was diagnosed with "sinusitis/headache" by Austin, prescribed Vicodin for the pain and an antibiotic by the doctor and sent home. He was not told to watch for any stroke symptoms.
The suit alleged that Navarro presented classic stroke symptoms that Austin should have noticed. It further said that CT scans are not adequate diagnostic tools for ruling out the type of stroke Navarro had.
Early the next morning, Navarro woke with a severe headache, slurred speech, nausea, confusion and trouble walking. He was readmitted to the UCH-Carrollwood Emergency Room at 6:05 a.m. Upon his return, he was labeled "urgent," but doctors still had not diagnosed a stroke. It wasn't until he was transferred to Carrollwood's sister hospital, UCH-Fletcher, that afternoon that surgery was finally performed. By then, the stroke had already left him paralyzed with mental disabilities. During surgery, he slipped into a four-month coma. He is now confined to a wheelchair.