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A slate of top medical malpractice attorneys faced off as trial opened over the catastrophic brain damage a woman suffered from a post-op blood clot. Those openings set the stage for a blockbuster $26 million verdict against a Georgia hospital, while completely clearing one of the treating physicians of liability.
Sandra Williams suffered severe brain damage that left her blind and unable to care for herself after a blood clot closed off her trachea, days after a common neck surgery.
In openings, Williams’ lawyer, the Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell, contended critical delays in care, as well as a botched intubation attempt, led to an emergency that starved Williams’ brain of oxygen for at least 20 minutes and caused her brain damage. Bell, known for his creative use of demonstratives, broke the case down using a combination of imaging, anatomical models, and everyday items, from a gift wrap tube to a loaf of bread.
Bendin Sumrall & Ladner’s Roger Sumrall countered that St. Francis Hospital’s on-call physician, Dr. Erik Westerlund, had properly overseen Williams’ care at the Columbus, Georgia facility and promptly responded when staff observed Williams’ breathing difficulties.
The Weathington Firm’s Paul Weathington, representing pulmonologist Dr. Charles Tidwell, countered that his client was thrust at the last minute into a complex emergency intubation with complications Weathington noted had been compared to a “box of snakes.”
“Snake handling is a dangerous business,” Weathington told jurors. “You can be as careful as you can be when you’re handling snakes, and you may [still] get bit, and others may get bit.”
Those openings previewed a 10-day proceeding that ultimately cleared Dr. Tidwell but found the hospital liable. The trial was named one of CVN's top trials of 2017. And its openings showcased powerful trial techniques from a slate of nationally-renowned attorneys that can be applied across a range of cases.
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