Arkansas Couple Get $20M in Botched Brain Surgery Suit

September 27, 2010

A Pulaski County, Ark., jury has ordered a hospital to pay $20 million to a couple whose son had brain surgery done on the wrong side of his head.

The panel of seven men and five women took just under two hours to reach its unanimous verdict against Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The decision was 11-1 in favor of the award, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Kenny and Pam Metheny wept after the verdict was read. They sued the hospital on behalf of their son, Cody, 19, who underwent a procedure in 2004 to remove faulty brain tissue believed to be the source of a seizure disorder. During the operation, Dr. Badih Adada, then-chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the hospital, removed matter from the wrong side of Cody’s brain before operating on the correct side.

The couple argued in their lawsuit that the mistake turned their vibrant teenager into an emotionless husk of a man who has psychotic delusions, continuing seizures and deteriorating intelligence.

“If he had seizure disorder before, it doesn’t mean they have a right to tear up his brain,” the couple’s attorney, Grant Davis of Kansas City, Mo., told jurors during closing arguments. “He had a right to live his life with the brain he had, and they came in and changed that forever.”

Attorney Jason Hendren, who represented the hospital’s insurance carrier Medical Insurance Co., told jurors the Methenys had built their case on overheated legal rhetoric and mercenary experts. Hendren argued that Adada is solely to blame.

“Metheny was injured by the mistake, but healed and his mental faculties improved,” Hendren argued. “If this case … were about sympathy for Cody Metheny, we would not be here. To speak truth, your verdict has to be about evidence, not sympathy.”

With Adada admitting wrongdoing, his insurance company paid $1 million. Under Arkansas law, the hospital couldn’t be found liable if the jury had decided Adada was solely responsible for the error.

Davis argued that hospital nurses weren’t adequately prepared and administrators didn’t thoroughly investigate Adada’s mistakes and promptly disclose them to the family, who didn’t learn for months the extent of the damage.

In a statement released by Arkansas Children’s Hospital, officials said the safety of their patients is always the top priority, but they acknowledged that a wrong-sided surgery had occurred.

“We deeply regret this happened. We wish only the best for this young man and his family,” the statement read.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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