Accused of taking too long to diagnose a vulnerable patient’s rare disorder, Springfield’s Mercy Hospital will have to foot a $28 million bill.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a former Mercy patient is owed tens of millions in restitution.
According to the Springfield News-Leader, the court’s unanimous decision ends a hospital bid to begin a new trial.
The patient, Emiliee Williams, has a rare liver disorder known as Wilson’s disease. Left untreated, Wilson’s causes copper build-up in the liver, brain and other vital organs.
Throughout her suit, first filed in 2015, Williams has maintained that Mercy irresponsibly failed to diagnose her disease. Left without any way to treat the hitherto unknown disease, Williams’ condition deteriorated to the point she had to be fed through a straw.
Lower court decisions also leaned towards Williams.
However, as the News-Leader notes, an earlier verdict by Greene County Circuit Court Judge Mark Powell that would have awarded Williams $28.9 million was disputed by both parties.
Mercy petitioned for a new trial while Williams challenged how the money would be paid out.
In court documents recounted by the News-Leader, Mercy alleged that the jury had received misleading instructions. Williams, meanwhile, criticized the constitutionality of Missouri’s periodic payment statutes, which mandates that some future medical damages be paid in installments.
Under Missouri law, $21 million of Williams’ total award would have been allocated as future medical damages.
And of that $21 million, roughly half would have been paid over a periodic schedule with a small-percent interest rate.
Along with anticipatory medical damages, Powell ordered $3.2 million in future economic damages and another $3.2 million in future non-economic damages. A half-million was further remanded for Williams’ outstanding medical damages.
The last million, says the News-Leader, was to compensate Williams for her existing non-economic damages.
In its Tuesday decision, the Supreme Court upheld Williams’ contention that Missouri’s installment law was unconstitutional.
Supreme Court Judge Mary R. Russell, writing on behalf of the panel, said the statute’s interest rate for installments differed from that used to compute the jury award “deprives Williams of the full value of the award and violates her due process rights.”
Russell wrote that “the $10 million of Williams’ future medical damage award to be paid periodically was effectively discounted twice—once by the jury when it reduced the entirety of the future medical damage award to the present value and again when the $10 million in future periodic payments was subjected to the arbitrarily low statutory interest rate.”
Applying interest, said Russell, “results in Williams receiving less than the jury awarded her.”
Rather than writing a binding and applicable resolution, the Missouri Supreme Court sent the judgment back to Greene County Circuit Court, which will have to pen a new judgment in accordance with the new ruling.