A Michigan jury recently returned a $20 million verdict in favor of Bimla Nayyar’s estate. However, her family won’t get any of it. That is because the verdict was thrown out on very technical grounds that had nothing to do with the tragic mistake in 2012 at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn.
For a second time, the Michigan Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal. Chief Justice Stephen Markman wrote in his opinion for the Court that the decision should stand, but he still called the case a “medical and legal dereliction, resulting in an extraordinary miscarriage of justice.”
Ms. Nayyar was admitted to the hospital for a procedure to realign her dislocated jaw. However, rather than correcting the jaw issue, surgeons performed a craniotomy, which involved the temporary removal of a bone flap in her brain. Hospital staff later discovered that she didn’t need brain surgery and that there was a mix-up with the medical records.
Nayyar died two months later. A jury in 2015 said the surgeons and the hospital caused her death. They awarded her estate $20 million. However, the huge verdict didn’t stand. That’s because the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the decision, holding that Nayyar’s death was presented as a case of negligence when it should have been argued as medical malpractice. The latter type of case has a limit on financial awards in the state. The appellate court noted that the first of two judges hearing the case had ruled out a negligence claim.
Nayyar’s lawyers petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court to reverse the decision and argued that the hospital had already admitted that the surgery was an error.
Nayyar’s family “now has no negligence claim and no medical malpractice claim,” Chief Justice Stephen Markman wrote, “all even though (a) defendant-hospital openly admitted negligence, (b) a jury determined that this negligence constituted the proximate cause of plaintiff’s death, and (c) a jury awarded plaintiff a $20 million verdict.”
One observer at WMU-Cooley Law School said Nayyar’s estate probably could have won at least $800,000 under a capped medical malpractice claim. But the case is now over.
Reference: The Washington Post (February 15, 2018) “Family of woman who died after surgery blunder gets no money”