CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Sean Claggett delivering his closing argument
Las Vegas, NV - A Nevada state court jury has returned a $47 million verdict in favor of a young mother left conscious but entirely unable to communicate, after doctors failed to properly treat her dangerous sodium imbalance resulting in permanent brain damage, and the full trial was filmed gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
The jurors returned their verdict on February 7 following a lengthy trial that began in early January in a case veteran trial lawyer Sean Claggett of the Claggett & Sykes Law Firm, who represented plaintiff Amy Geiler, described as the most difficult of his career "by a mile."
The complex case involved claims against numerous doctors and staff at two separate hospitals, and due to the jury’s allotment of liability to settled defendants Geiler will only be eligible to collect 35 percent of the total award, and a portion of that amount will then be further reduced by Nevada’s $350,000 malpractice cap on pain and suffering damages - which Claggett said he plans to challenge as unconstitutional on appeal.
However more than $12.5 million of the $47 million total consisted of damages for past and future medical expenses and loss of earnings capacity, which will not be subject to the cap and that Claggett said will be used to fund intensive therapy to hopefully teach Geiler to communicate using her eyes. He said the amount far exceeded the only settlement offer in the case, which he told CVN after the trial he received (and rejected) while the jury was in deliberations.
Gavel-to-gavel video of the full trial, including all witness testimony, is available with a monthly or annual subscription to CVN’s online trial video library. Subscribers get unlimited on-demand access to this trial and hundreds others, including numerous medical malpractice cases from throughout the country.
The trial centered around treatment Geiler received on New Year’s day in 2019 following a fall. Her family brought her to MountainView Hospital, where medical staff quickly determined she had dangerously low sodium levels and began rapidly infusing her with saline solution to stabilize them.
Shortly afterwards, Dr. Ejo John, a physician in MountainView’s emergency department, began efforts to transfer Geiler to nearby Mountain’s Edge Hospital due to supposedly erroneously deciding that Geiler’s insurer would not cover treatment at Mountain View.
Dr. Amit Valera admitted Geiler at Mountain’s Edge, but due to lack of communication between staff at the two hospitals Geiler received an excessive amount of saline solution at a dangerously fast rate, which resulted in permanent and extensive brain damage.
While the jury found that the three remaining defendants in the case (Mountain View, Dr. John and Dr. Valera) were all negligent, they found that only Dr. Valera’s actions were a legal cause of Geiler’s injuries and assigned him 35 percent responsibility for the total $47 million awarded.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Mike Prangle delivering his closing argument
During the trial the defendants argued the severity of Geiler's sodium imbalance, which they attributed to excessive alcohol use, necessitated the rapid infusion of saline. They also maintained Geiler was fully coherent when she consented to the transfer to Mountain's Edge.
Following the trial Mountain View provided a statement to CVN through their attorney, Mike Prangle of Hall Prangle & Schoonveld LLC, expressing sympathy for Geiler but affirming the jury’s decision.
“We're grateful for today's verdict that demonstrates our care team at MountainView Hospital did not cause an injury to Ms. Geiler,” they said.
Anthony Lauria of Lauria Tokunaga Gates & Linn LLP, who represented Dr. John, expressed similar sentiments.
“The jury was very attentive to the evidence and followed the law in this case in determining that Dr. John was not responsible for Ms. Geiler’s injuries,” he said.
Patricia Daehnke of Collinson Daehnke Inlow & Greco, who represents Valera, did not respond to a request for comment.
After the trial Claggett stressed to CVN that his case was severely hampered by pre-trial rulings he intends to appeal.
“We overcame a lot to get this verdict, and I’m so proud of my team,” he said.
He praised the jury for doing a “phenomenal job” with the information they had, but he said part of his appeal - in addition to the constitutionality of Nevada’s damages cap - will focus on his punitive damages claims being tossed on summary judgment and the exclusion of key evidence.
“There was a lot of evidence this jury didn’t get to hear that they should have been able to hear,” Claggett said, specifically referencing the barring of any testimony that Geiler'a treatment violated the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, or EMTALA, a Reagan-era law passed to prohibit so-called “patient dumping” where hospitals transfer out patients who don’t have the means to pay for care.
Claggett said the practice remains rampant today, and that Geiler’s case puts a spotlight on the situation uninsured or underinsured patients can face in the emergency room of some hospitals.
“This case represents everything that’s wrong with healthcare. This decision to transfer the patient violated all kinds of federal and state laws,” Claggett lamented. “We weren’t allowed to talk about that during the trial.”
Claggett struck an optimistic tone regarding his upcoming appeals, noting he would be utilizing some of the top appellate attorneys in the state. Nonetheless he celebrated that the funds he secured through settlements and the recoverable portion of the jury’s verdict would help Geiler attempt to achieve some level of recovery.
“This lawsuit is going to provide care for Amy that she desperately needs,” he said.
The trial took place before Judge Veronica Barisich.
The case is captioned Amy Geiler, et al. v. Sunrise Mountain View Hospital, et al., case number A-20-808331-C in Clark County District Court, Nevada.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com