Faith DeGrand of Wyandotte, Michigan, was ten years old when she was taken to Children’s Hospital at the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) for scoliosis surgery. After the operation, the girl was left partially paralyzed. Now, the hospital will have to pay $135 million to the family, represented by attorneys Geoffrey Fieger and James McCullen. A jury found the facility and her physician guilty of malpractice.
The day of the surgery, the procedure started off as expected. “The surgeon inserted rods and screws to straighten her spine, which was fine,” Fieger said. But the way in which the girl’s surgeon inserted the hardware caused compression of her spinal cord, ultimately resulting in numbness in the girl’s limbs.
Fieger continued, “The patient needs to have screws and hooks and bars taken out immediately. Instead – [the doctor] left; he abandoned her…Faith’s doctor went on vacation two times, and left her alone lying paralyzed, and incontinent of bowel and bladder for ten days until another doctor recognized her serious condition and took out all of the hardware which was causing her paralysis. It was too late. Faith was left with permanent quadraparesis of her four extremities and permanent loss of bowel and bladder control.”
During the malpractice trial, Detroit Medical Center defense attorneys claimed DeGrand had developed a blood clot unexpectedly following the operation and there was nothing they could do to prevent it or her injuries. This is despite any physical or tangible signs of a clot.
Fieger said, “At trial, the DMC falsely claimed that a phantom blood clot, that no doctor ever saw, was the cause of Faith’s injuries, and that there was nothing they could do to prevent it…Nobody saw it, there were no MRIs, or anything that would indicate that. They literally made this up to go to trial.”
According to the girl’s attorneys, the jury finally saw through the rouse after deliberating for over two hours behind closed doors. “The hero jury saw through this fabrication, and awarded appropriate damages for these horrific, life destroying injuries…A Wayne County jury rendered the largest verdict in the United States for a single medical malpractice case,” explained Fieger, who came to this conclusion after indicating there is no evidence to support a heftier verdict being rendered to an individual.
Attorney James McCullen added, “For seven years the family has been waiting, hoping and not knowing what was going to happen.” Yet, he and Fieger agreed that the win still doesn’t feel victorious.
“She’ll have enough money to get her catheter changed for the rest of her life,” Fieger said. “That’s it.” McCullen said, “It is going to be difficult, but it will make it a little bit easier. But that is all it can do.”
McCullen and Fieger both voiced that they’ve been inspired by the girl’s strength and the courage of her mother, who has stood by her daughter’s side and taken care of her every day. After the verdict was delivered, the hospital’s staff responded that they disagreed with the jury’s conclusion and are considering submitting an appeal.