Jury Awards $10M Against W. Va. Hospital

A Morgantown, West Virginia, woman has won a $10 million verdict against Ruby Memorial Hospital for pain and suffering caused by an infection she contracted during a 1995 knee operation.

The hospital plans to ask Monongalia County Circuit Judge Robert B. Stone to set aside the verdict because it exceeds the state’s $1 million cap on non-economic damages and was not supported by the evidence at trial, hospital spokesman Bill Case said.

“We’re very disappointed by this verdict,” said Case.

Allison Riggs was 14 when she underwent a knee operation at the Morgantown hospital. She contracted the infection during the operation and had to undergo seven additional surgeries. She is now 25.

On Tuesday, a Monongalia County Circuit Court jury awarded Riggs $84,989.39 for medical expenses and $10 million in general damages.

During the trial, Riggs’ lawyers argued that WVU Hospitals failed to advise its doctors and medical staff that it had an epidemic near the time Riggs was infected. Her lawyers also alleged the hospital failed to disclose other epidemics in 1991 and 1993.

“I think the size of the verdict is a direct reflection of the hospital’s refusal to take responsibility for the failure of its infection control department, and the impact it had on this girl’s life and development,” one of Riggs’ lawyers, Paul Farrell Jr. of Huntington, told the Herald Dispatch of Huntington.

Farrell said Riggs suffered from a serratia bacterial infection that became trapped inside her knee during the operation. It would then take four years for that infection to eat its way out of her knee. The infection was found after doctors discovered the hardware installed in her knee had floated into the soft tissue of her thigh.

Ruby Memorial is operated by West Virginia University Hospitals Inc.