Jury awards Mariah Martinez $3M for being misdiagnosed with epilepsy by Dr. Yasser Awaad.
Jurors said Dr. Yasser Awaad, former Oakwood Healthcare and William Beaumont Hospital neurologist, breached the standard of care in his treatment of Mariah Martinez, and Oakwood Medical Center in Dearborn was found negligent in its supervision of him. McKeen & Associates attorneys Brian McKeen and Anthony Randazzo tried the case in Circuit Court for the County of Wayne before the Honorable Robert J. Colombo, Jr. and won $3,024,000 on behalf of Martinez.
As a child, Martinez, now 26, was treated by Dr. Awaad for years for epilepsy. She was diagnosed at age 9. Awaad said EEG tests that measure brain waves showed clear abnormalities that were indicative of the condition. After four years of being on an anti-seizure medication, another doctor stepped in and found her results were normal. Martinez, in fact, never had the condition.
During trial, the defense team was able to prove that Oakwood’s administration ignored reports from a parent who had voiced concerns as well as from an Oakwood pediatrician who reported on several occasions Awaad’s overuse of EEGs and anticonvulsant drug prescriptions on children. The pediatrician worked in the same facility as Awaad and noticed how often the treatments were being prescribed.
Awaad allegedly ordered tests on hundreds of Detroit-area children for epilepsy and intentionally misread the EEG results, according to court records. Yet, despite the red flags, the administration failed to investigate and Awaad was able to continue practicing until 2006. He was Oakwood’s first pediatric neurologist when he first came to the center in 1999. By the time he left, the neurologist was making a salary of $300,000 with bonuses estimated at $220,000 if certain billing targets were met. This was the apparent motive behind the frequent misdiagnoses.
“Experts who testified in the case all agreed that had Awaad been investigated early on it would have been apparent that he was systematically labeling normal EEGs as showing evidence of seizure activity,” said McKeen. “If the administration had done their duty, hundreds of children would not have been mistreated at his hands.” He added, “We are delighted the jury found this physician responsible for his egregious behavior. Unfortunately, this is just the first in many cases that will be brought against this doctor.” The law firm reportedly has 250 additional clients who plan to bring similar cases against the physician.
Martinez said she was “deeply satisfied” and the verdict lifts a “big weight” from her shoulders.
Beaumont Health spokesperson Mark Geary responded that the center believes Martinez was “treated appropriately” at Oakwood, which merged with Beaumont after the lawsuit was filed. “We believe patients were treated appropriately and disagree with allegations of improper oversight of Dr. Awaad by Oakwood Healthcare,” Geary said.
“Beaumont’s statement that Mariah Martinez was treated ‘appropriately’ is a slap in the face to the nine jurors who heard the facts of the case and voted unanimously that Dr. Yasser Awaad and Oakwood Healthcare were negligent,” McKeen said. “The defense experts agreed that Awaad systematically misread EEGs. There was no expert testimony that Mariah ever had epilepsy.”
The jury’s reward exceeds Michigan state law, so the actual sum Martinez will receive will most likely be reduced.