26-year-old Emilee Williams filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities in July 2015 after a life-threatening disease was missed and was awarded $28 million. Yet, she has not seen a dime because the hospital has appealed the verdict. The case is now set to go to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Williams sued the hospital for its failure to diagnose her with Wilson’s Disease, a rare inherited disorder that leads to copper deposits on the brain, liver, and other organs. $21 million of the total was awarded solely for her medical expenses. Mercy hospital has asked to make payments over the course of several decades, but Williams would like to receive the award in one lump sum.
“My sister is an extremely engaging and bubbly person, she’s always the positive one in our family,” said Alaina Williams, Emilee’s sister. In 2012, Emilee started experiencing bouts of significant anxiety and depression, and her family knew something had to be wrong.
“It was interfering with classes, we really didn’t know what was going on. She had started talking about suicide and things like that and so we went to a doctor,” said Williams.
Emilee went to Mercy for care where, based on her symptoms, doctors diagnosed her with anxiety and depression. “Even though her hand was trembling, which is a neurological symptom, it has nothing to do with anxiety and depression,” said Williams.
As time went by, Emilee’s symptoms worsened, and she began to have trouble performing daily tasks such as writing and holding utensils as the disease spread. She also had trouble smiling, talking, and seeing. Medical personnel at Mercy insisted on prescribing her medications for anxiety and depression without looking into the issue further. Then, in August 2013, her mother insisted she have an MRI taken.
“Within 15 minutes of getting the MRI, they called and said, ‘there’s something going on, there’s significant brain damage.’ They saw the “panda face” is what they call it, ‘we think this is Wilson’s Disease’,” said Williams. But, it was far too late.
“She still has to have care, she needs people to drive her everywhere,” says Williams. Emilee will need to have 24/7 care.
“Instead of paying this young lady now a lump sum, Mercy’s wanting to pay it over time, which the Tort Reform Law provides for,” says attorney Jay Kirksey who is not a party to the litigation. Because of Tort Reform, Mercy Hospital is requesting to pay Emilee $21 million over 58 years at only a 1.2% interest rate. Mercy also doesn’t want to pay post-judgment interest.
“The problem with that number one, that money is not going to be there over time and number two, it’s going to be insufficient over time to take care of all her health care needs,” Kirksey added. “If it’s you or me or any citizen in this state, we have to pay immediately upon a judgment and we have to pay interest if we don’t pay immediately, but no that doesn’t apply to the hospital.”
“It’s really terrifying to think that we are not going to be able to have the funds to provide for her in those moments,” Williams said. “My sister’s biggest thing, her number one goal in life is to never have anybody go through what she’s gone through, never, never.”