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Med Mal Case Over Emory Hospital Patient's Severe Brain Injury Goes to Jury

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 17, 2022 10:30:59 AM

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Decatur, GA— Jury deliberations are under way at trial over whether medical negligence caused a Georgia hospital patient’s profound brain damage. Tatum v. The Emory Clinic and Emory Healthcare, Inc., 16A60933. 

Deliberations follow a week-long trial in which attorneys argued what caused Jenni Carswell to suffer a catastrophic respiratory arrest during a stay at Emory Johns Creek Hospital in June 2015. Carswell was three nights into a stay at the hospital when staff discovered she was not breathing. The incident caused severe brain damage that has left Carswell in a wheelchair and unable to care for herself, among a host of neurological issues. 

Her mother, Sharon Tatum, is suing The Emory Clinic and Emory Healthcare, claiming hospital staff did not provide Carswell with BiPAP breathing support or properly monitor her oxygen levels, despite Carswell's sleep apnea and a host of other health issues, including morbid obesity, that increased her chance of respiratory arrest.  

During Thursday’s closing arguments, Tatum’s attorney, the Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell, requested more than $38 million, including more than $19 million each in economic and non-economic damages. 

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Carswell, who had undergone bariatric surgery in January 2015, was hospitalized at Emory Johns Creek in June after complaining of abdominal pain. And during Thursday’s closings, Bell, walked jurors through evidence he said showed Emory staff breached the standard of care in failing to continuously monitor her pulse and oxygen levels. Bell told jurors one of the nurses caring for Carswell was never trained on Emory policy regarding continuous oxygen monitoring, and a hospital physician did not inquire sufficiently enough into Carswell’s medical history to learn she had sleep apnea that required breathing support. 

“It’s really not that hard. If they had just been monitoring her, if they had just been watching, we wouldn’t be here,” Bell said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Emory argues hospital staff followed the appropriate standard of care in treating Carswell, but that Carswell took an overdose of her own prescription medication. During his closing Thursday, Bendin Sumrall & Ladner’s David Ladner said Carswell did not need continuous oxygen monitoring under Emory policy because she was not under a cardiovascular telemetry monitoring protocol. And he told jurors evidence showed Carswell took her own Xanax the evening before her respiratory arrest. 

“[Carswell] took a toxic, or potentially lethal amount of Xanax,” Ladner said. “BiPAP does not prevent an overdose.”

This article will be updated with the jury's verdict. 

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com

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Topics: Medical Malpractice, Georgia, Tatum v. The Emory Clinic, et al.