TUCSON - A Tucson woman in a vegetative state was awarded $12 million dollars by a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The verdict against the University of Arizona Health Network, now Banner-University Medical Center Tucson, is the largest medical malpractice verdict in Pima County in over a decade.
Esmeralda Tripp had a history of seizures and was on Coumadin, a blood thinner medication.
Tripp went to the emergency room Sept. 13, 2013. According to her daughter, Jamaica Tripp-Serrano, she went alone and had been to the same emergency room multiple times dealing with the same issue. She was generally treated with a Vitamin K shot or plasma and released. “That was the routine,” said Tripp-Serrano.
Tripp’s lawyers say that a doctor, just 8 weeks out of medical school, administered the drug administered Profilnine. Hours later, Tripp suffered from blood clots and a heart attack that caused permanent brain damage.
Esmeralda was brought back home less than 2 months after the incident.
"Look at the outcome,” said Tripp-Serrano. “Look at my mom – she's no longer my mom. She doesn't talk, she doesn't walk, but she's here and we know she's here she's listening to us right now."
Esmeralda, a graduate of Sunnyside High School, has been living in her family’s 8x8 den for the last 4 years. Her family, including her 4 children, have taken on the bulk of her care giving. She responds to her family, including her husband and seven grandchildren with limited facial expressions and hand movements.
"She's our queen, she's our world, she's our rock," said Tripp-Serrano.
The trial began in October and lasted three weeks. After more than three and a half hours of the jury deliberating, a verdict was reached. "We received a unanimous jury verdict. Every single person on that jury agreed with us and wanted to help Esmeralda and her family," said attorney for Tripp, Brian Snyder
The attorneys for Banner UMC released this statement:
We are truly sorry for the medical outcome that occurred for Ms. Tripp and her family. Yet, we believe these physicians acted in good faith and with sound medical judgment based on the information provided to them. When Ms. Tripp came to the emergency room on September 13, 2013, she provided inaccurate information to her emergency physicians about her health history. This included major health events and a drug allergy that could not be substantiated despite a thorough review of her medical records. She also admitted to taking blood thinners at four times the level that was prescribed to her. No one expects to have an emergency medical situation, but a patient’s knowledge and willingness to provide the most accurate information about symptoms, health history, current medications and allergies is paramount to an emergency physician’s ability to deliver the right care in the safest manner.
A study from Johns Hopkins University suggests medical errors are the third leading causing of death in the country.