On April 14, 2010 the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Judge Dale Harkey, rendered a verdict of $579,789 in the med-mal case of Jessie Lee Johnson v. Forrest General Hospital. Here is a copy of the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The Plaintiff underwent a successful knee replacement at Forrest General in 1998 and was transfered to the rehabilitation unit in the hospital. Two weeks later, plaintiff’s knee was injured.

Plaintiff alleged that the injury occurred when an aide assisted her to the restroom. She stated that the aide did not put down the foot rest on plaintiff’s wheel chair and plaintiff’s foot caught the floor, causing the dislocation of her knee. Multiple additional dislocations followed. Ultimately, a new knee was installed. But the knee became infected and her leg was amputated above the knee.

The aide disputed plaintiff’s testimony. She stated that no accident happened and that both foot rests were on the wheelchair when she transported plaintiff. In addition, the hospital argued through expert testimony that the injury could not have occurred as plaintiff described and that the knee installation was sub-standard, which caused the dislocation.

As an aside, defendants love to dump on other health-care providers in med-mal cases when the other providers weren’t sued (they are “empty chairs”). But when the plaintiffs sue everyone in sight, the providers circle the wagons and go with some variation of a causation defense. This is a big reason that plaintiff lawyers are so cynical towards doctors.

The court weighed the evidence and decided that the plaintiff was telling the truth. The Court did more than take the plaintiff’s word for it. The Court considered evidence of a late nurse’s note that cast suspicion on the hospital’s account of the injury and compared plaintiff’s account to objective evidence in the medical records.

The Court assessed damages of:

  • $199,789.54 for medical expenses
  • $380,000.00 pain and suffering from at least 7 dislocations and the amputation.

The Court did not enter a final judgment because of the $500,000 cap in Tort Claims Act cases. The Court requested briefs on the Act and the limits of applicable insurance coverage.

Jennifer Ingram Wilkinson of Hattiesburg and a New Orleans firm represented the plaintiff. Gene Parker of Hattiesburg [correction: Vicksburg] represented Forrest General.