State Supreme Court Upholds $3.2 Million Jury Verdict in Hospital Negligence Case

The Alabama Supreme Court has upheld a jury’s $3.2 million verdict against Baptist Medical Center East in a medical negligence case brought by the family of decedent Lauree Ellison.
The medical negligence case was brought by Ellison’s family after she died on November 8, 2005, three days after returning to the same emergency room from where she had been previously discharged with an infectious process that was recorded electronically but never passed on to her family physician. The matter began on September 3, 2005 when Ellison was treated in the emergency room at Baptist Medical Center after falling in her home. During her ER exam, Ellison mentioned that she had a sore throat. The ER staff ordered a strep test which was negative. Since there were no signs of injury from the fall, she was discharged. However, after Ellison’s release, the lab at BMCE drew the culture taken from the quick streptococcus test and found the presence of the infectious process, MRSA. The lab reported the results in its electronic medical system, but they were not reported to Ellison’s family doctor. On Nov. 3, 2005, she returned to BMCE’s emergency room complaining of a cough and moderate to severe respiratory distress. She died on Nov. 8, 2005. Expert testimony during the medical negligence trial revealed that the hospital had breached the standard of care by not reporting its MRSA finding to the family physician and that that negligent breach was a proximate cause of her death. The jury agreed and awarded the estate $3.2 million.