$3.6 million settlement with a hospital for delayed Code call and administration of wrong drug

Our client sustained a severe brain injury when she reacted adversely to a drug given to her by a nurse in the recovery room following a cesarean delivery. The nurse administered what was believed to be Demerol to control post-operative shivering. Within moments, our client became completely non-responsive and had trouble breathing. The nurse applied an oxygen mask and pushed the nursing call button. Several minutes later, an anesthesiologist was summoned, who began resuscitative measures. After many more minutes—a total of some 15 minutes after the emergency began—a Code was called, summoning a complete hospital Code Team with doctors, respiratory therapists, and pharmacists trained to respond to life-threatening emergencies. Her breathing was finally re-established, but the damage was already done due to the delay in the call to the Code Team.

What happened and why was unclear from the medical records. The facts above were gathered through intensive discovery, including 28 depositions of physicians, expert witnesses, and other eyewitnesses. We spoke to over 20 experts, who began hypothesizing that the medication administered by the nurse could not have been Demerol, but must have been some sort of paralytic drug. Other than our client’s symptoms, there was no evidence in the medical records or hospital drug records that the wrong medication was given. We were, however, able to develop evidence of general substandard drug handling practices at the hospital that potentially could have led to a mistaken drug injection. This was a case that many other attorneys, including experienced Seattle area medical malpractice attorneys, declined to investigate. We spent hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars putting the case into a settlement posture.