$52M+ Malpractice Trial over Woman’s ‘Locked-In Syndrome' Due To Sodium Imbalance Begins

Posted by David Siegel on Jan 19, 2023 2:12:40 PM

Claggett openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Sean Claggett delivering his opening statement

Las Vegas, NV - A patient left completely unable to communicate due to brain damage caused by a sodium imbalance is seeking more than $52 million in damages at a medical malpractice trial underway in Nevada state court, and the full proceedings are being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

A Clark County jury heard opening statements on January 11 in a lawsuit filed on behalf of plaintiff Amy Geiler, whose attorney accused medical staff at two Las Vegas area hospitals of failing to properly treat her dangerously erratic sodium levels. Geiler experienced extensive brain damage as a result and now suffers with “Locked-In Syndrome” - meaning she can still hear and understand what’s going on around her but cannot express her thoughts in any way.

Attorney Sean Claggett of the Claggett & Sykes Law Firm told jurors that Geiler’s condition resulted from a botched effort to transfer Geiler to a lesser-equipped hospital due to coverage restrictions in her insurance network, but attorneys for the hospitals and doctors involved maintained that Geiler’s treatment met the standard of care, and that her sodium imbalance resulted from excessive alcohol use.

Claggett described to jurors how Geiler arrived at MountainView hospital on New Year’s Day in 2019 after suffering a serious fall. He said emergency room staff found her to be in an altered mental state, and that blood tests revealed she had dangerously low sodium levels.

Claggett claimed Geiler received only brief treatment before the decision was made to transfer her to Mountain's Edge Hospital, a facility that unlike MountainView was in-network for Geiler’s insurance but according to Claggett lacked the adequate nephrology (kidney treatment) staff to properly treat a patient in Geiler’s condition.

While the transfer plans were being worked out, Claggett alleged staff at MountainView hospital infused Geiler with saline solution containing sodium at a recklessly fast rate, explaining to jurors that increasing a patient’s sodium levels too quickly can be just as damaging as sodium levels below normal.

He claimed Geiler received too much sodium in the MountainView emergency room, and that due to a supposed failure to fully review her lab results and transfer them to Mountain’s Edge she continued to receive saline infusions at a dangerously rapid rate, eventually resulting in irreversibly brain damage.

“Our experts will tell you this is so far below the standard of care that they don’t have words for it almost,” Claggett told the jury according to CVN’s webcast of the proceedings. “It’s egregious.”

He told jurors that he would seek $52 million in damages for Geiler’s pain and suffering, describing how the young mother would never be able to tell her son she loved him again and would require 24/7 nursing care for the rest of her life - all while being fully aware of everything happening around her but unable to communicate in any way.

Representing MountainView, defense attorney Michael Prangle of Hall Prangle & Schoonveld LLC told jurors that Geiler’s supposedly excessive alcohol use caused a sodium imbalance that required the the saline infusions she received due to the acute nature of her condition when she arrived in the emergency room.

“There’s great clinical value in raising her relatively quickly on that front-end to get her out of that danger zone,” he said, suggesting that responsibility for continuing to give saline infusions after Geiler stabilized lay with the medical staff at Mountain’s Edge.

Prangle openings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Michael Prangle delivering his opening statement

Prangle also pushed back on Claggett’s claims that Geiler could not have meaningfully consented to being transferred to an in-network hospital. He told jurors that Geiler’s condition rapidly improved after receiving the initial saline infusions, and that she was no longer in an altered mental state when she supposedly approved the transfer after being told that continued treatment at MountainView could result in a substantial bill.

The trial before Judge Veronica Barisich is expected to last through the rest of January, and CVN’s gavel-to-gavel video coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

The case is captioned Geiler v. MountainVIew Hospital, et al., case number A-20-808331-C in Nevada’s Eighth District Court in Clark County.

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Topics: Medical Malpractice, Nevada