A.O Fox Memorial Hospital Ordered to Pay $144,690,039 in Malpractice Lawsuit

A. O. Fox Memorial Hospital of Oneonta, New York, was found responsible for medical malpractice in the treatment of a 51-year-old Oneonta woman in the New York State Supreme Court, Otsego County. A jury of two women and four men returned a verdict against A. O. Fox Hospital in favor of Debora Sohl, after finding that the hospital was negligent in failing to properly diagnose and treat her heart attack on January 26 and January 27, 2009. Debora Sohl was represented by the law firm of Linnan & Fallon of Albany, New York. The case was tried jointly by partners, James D. Linnan and Charlene S. Fallon, over a period of one and one-half weeks in the Otsego County Court House in Cooperstown, New York.

The jury found that the hospital was negligent in its care of the patient and further found that its careless treatment resulted in significant cardiac damage, which has resulted in significant pain and disability for Ms. Sohl. The jury awarded past pain and suffering in the sum of $2 million and future pain and suffering for the period of the next 32 years in the sum of $16 million. The jury further awarded past and future medical expenses, including the cost of the installation and maintenance of a defibrillator device, a mechanical heart pumping assistance device and ultimately a heart transplant for the patient. The extraordinary sum necessary to maintain the patient's health in the future, and to have appropriate funds set aside to pay for future surgeries, makes medical expenses enormous. A total of all damages brought the total verdict to $144,642,039.

The patient's attorneys contended that the patient should have been immediately referred to a cardiologist and evaluated for a cardiac catheterization when she was presented at the Emergency Room on January 26, 2009, with symptoms of severe, unrelenting chest pain radiating into her left arm, left neck and jaw and with an abnormal EKG demonstrating that the patient's heart was not receiving an adequate oxygen supply. The attorneys further contended that it was improper to admit her to the floor of the hospital and leave her relatively unattended for a period of approximately 24 hours. Ultimately, a family member was able to obtain an outside cardiologist to go to the hospital, examine the patient and have her transferred to Wilson Hospital, Johnson City, New York, where a cardiac catheterization laboratory was available.

James D. Linnan, attorney for the patient, stated that it was unfortunate that the hospital continued to deny liability and refused to negotiate a proper settlement of the case, forcing the case to go to a jury trial. Mr. Linnan went on to state that he believed that the size of the verdict was a message sent by the jury to the A. O. Memorial Fox Hospital indicating that the community where the hospital is located expects appropriate, timely and up-to-date care for its patients and further expects that when the hospital has made an error, that it should acknowledge its error and deal fairly with its patients.

The jury verdict is believed to be the largest civil verdict ever returned in Otsego County by a jury.