Image of a form with the words 'Medical Malpractice'
Medical Malpractice; Image Courtesy of,

When most people go to the hospital for a surgery, the last thing they plan on is something bad happening. Most people trust their doctors to make the best decisions regarding their health and certainly trust them not to make any life-changing mistakes. Unfortunately for one Bluefield woman, a thyroidectomy performed in February 2014 resulted in an injury that prompted the woman to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against her doctor, Michael Covelli.

The lawsuit itself was filed back in March 2016, and “alleged Covelli didn’t take steps necessary to prevent injury to her laryngeal nerves.” As a result of the injury, the woman, Dominique Adkins, “was diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis” and she eventually had to undergo a permanent tracheotomy, which she has to clean “three times a day.” In her lawsuit, she also claimed “she was turned down for at least one job because the employer said her tracheotomy was a liability.”

Image of a legal gavel
Legal Gavel; Image Courtesy of Charleston Gazette,

Fortunately for Adkins, the jury sided in her favor and awarded her close to $5.8 million earlier this month. It turns out the jury agreed that Dr. Covelli “damaged nerves in her throat and caused her permanent, severe and debilitating injuries that required a tracheotomy.” About $200,000 was awarded to her for medical expenses, while $540,000 was awarded for loss of income. Another $50,000 was awarded to cover the loss of household services. The award is especially notable because, at $5.8 million, it’s one of the “largest in the state since 2003.

Unfortunately, since state legislators in West Virginia “instituted caps on medical malpractice judgments…Adkins will only see a fraction of the money” awarded to her. But what kind of caps did the legislators approve? Well, the changes approved in 2003 “cap the amount of non-economic damages — which include compensation for pain and suffering — that a person can receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit.” According to Adkins’ lawyer, Richard Lindsey II, the current cap, which accounts for inflation, is “somewhere between $630,000 and $650,000.” So instead of being able to enjoy the $5.8 million the jury awarded her, Adkins will only receive, at most, $650,000.

What does the other side of the aisle have to say about the jury’s decision, though? Well, one of Covelli’s attorneys, Salem Smith, said “he didn’t believe the evidence supported the verdict or the amount awarded.” In a recent email, he said, “We plan to review the record and are strongly considering filing an appeal.”

What do you think? Should states be allowed to put a cap on medical malpractice settlements?


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