Jury gives record medical-malpractice award of $17.8 million to South Side family By Bruce Cadwallader The Columbus Dispatch Friday, July 21, 2006 8:00 PM A Franklin County jury awarded the family of a Columbus girl more than $17.8 million today because of a medical mistake that left her requiring constant care. The award is the largest in the county for a medical-malpractice case before a jury. The money is to cover the future medical costs, education and pain and suffering of Alexis Hayes, a 5-year-old whose brain was damaged before elective surgery at Children's Hospital nearly five years ago. Alexis cannot speak, has cerebral palsy and will use a wheelchair for life, one of her attorneys said. Doctors were preparing to remove a benign cyst from the neck of the then-4-month-old infant when something went wrong with the anesthesia on Sept. 25, 2001. Her parents, Randy Jackson and Myrtle Hayes, of the South Side, filed a lawsuit in March 2003 against the hospital and several co-defendants. The engaged couple hugged each other and cried yesterday as Common Pleas Judge Guy Reece read the verdicts finding an anesthesiologist and her company negligent. The verdicts include $800,000 for each parent and $16,254,000 for Alexis. A court-appointed lawyer will act as guardian for the child and determine how her money is spent. The hospital, which settled out of court during the trial on terms that were not disclosed, and lawyers for the anesthesiologists, argued that Alexis must have had a heart condition that had not been detected. However, jurors found that Dr. Sharon Benoit and her company, Children's Anesthesia Associates Inc., were responsible for Alexis' injuries. Benoit, 44, failed to let Alexis recover properly from the first attempt to administer anesthesia and didn't respond quickly to warning signs that something was wrong, jurors found with their verdicts. She was not in court when the verdicts were read. Her attorney, Peter VanLigten, told the judge he will appeal. Steve Chappelear, who has studied jury verdicts for the Columbus Bar Association, confirmed that the award smashes the previous medical-malpractice record of $12 million, which a Franklin County jury awarded in 1990. In a prepared statement, Children's Hospital said it stands by Dr. Benoit's record. “With compassion for this precious child and her family, Columbus Children's Hospital respectfully disagrees with the jury's decision regarding the cause of this child's tragic current medical condition,' the statement said. Dr. Benoit “provides high-quality care to the children she serves.' A spokeswoman for the hospital said Alexis is still cared for by doctors at Children's Hospital.