Pa. Jury Awards $10.8M In Med Mal Trial Over Brain Injury

By Y. Peter Kang
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Law360 (August 27, 2020, 9:51 PM EDT) -- A Pennsylvania jury has awarded $10.8 million in a suit accusing a hospital of causing a patient's severe and permanent brain injury, in what is being touted as the state's first plaintiff's verdict in a civil trial since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a six-day trial and 2½ hours of deliberations, a Blair County jury on Tuesday found Tyrone Hospital liable in a suit accusing an MRI technician of failing to timely notify a doctor when patient Christopher Miller began suffering a life-threatening allergic reaction to contrast dye used as part of an MRI in October 2016.

The suit filed by the patient's father, Charles Miller, claims that because of the technician's negligence, his son suffered a catastrophic brain injury and now requires around-the-clock care and supervision.

Future medical expenses of about $6.4 million made up the bulk of the jury's award, followed by a $2.9 million award for past and future noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, among other categories of damages.

Brendan Lupetin of Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin LLC, one of Miller's attorneys, told Law360 on Thursday that the civil verdict is believed to be the first plaintiff's trial win in the state since Pennsylvania courthouses were shut down in March. Lupetin said there have been only two previous civil trials conducted in Pennsylvania, and both ended in defense verdicts.

Blair County held two criminal trials earlier this month, and this case was the first civil trial, according to Lupetin, who said everyone except witnesses testifying behind plexiglass were required to wear face masks at all times, and jurors were socially distanced in a bleacher-like jury box.

In addition, attorneys were required to give opening and closing arguments while seated and speaking into a microphone, Lupetin said.

"I had never done that before — I've tried many trials — but I kind of liked it, it was nice," he said. "You had your notes right there and didn't have to worry about where you're walking or standing. Honestly, it was great with me."

The attorney said his client was pleased with the outcome of what he called a case of "clear cut" negligence.

"They've been through hell in the last four years caring for their 45-year-old son," he said. "So to finally know there is some money to help take care of him will be life-changing, just as their son's injury was to begin with."

An attorney for the hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Miller is represented by Brendan B. Lupetin, Gregory R. Unatin and Jerry I. Meyers of Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin LLC.

The hospital is represented by Michael A. Sosnowski of Dickie McCamey & Chilcote PC.

The case is Charles Timothy Miller v. Kelly Biggs M.D. et al., case number 2018 GN 2849, in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Pennsylvania.

--Editing by Brian Baresch.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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