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Paralyzed Idaho man awarded $5.7 million in lawsuit against St. Luke's

Posted on Oct 07, 2005

Paralyzed man awarded $5.7 million in lawsuit against St. Luke's THE ASSOCIATED PRESS BOISE, Idaho -- An Ada County jury has awarded a Meridian man $5.7 million in a malpractice lawsuit against St. Luke's Regional Medical Center. Hospital officials say they won't appeal. Nathan Ogden, 30, whose lower body had been paralyzed by a 2001 skiing accident, sued the hospital after his neck was broken in a gurney accident in 2003, causing him to lose most of his upper body function. The jury found the hospital was negligent in providing medical care to Ogden. At the time of the gurney accident, Ogden was suffering from pneumonia. His wife called an ambulance after she could not wake him up, and he was taken to St. Luke's in Meridian. Once there, the unconscious man was placed on a gurney and wheeled into an X-ray room, Ogden's lawyer Rex Blackburn said. A hospital employee sat Ogden up at an angle and didn't secure him to the gurney before lowering a side rail, Blackburn said. Ogden fell out of the gurney, breaking his neck at the fifth and sixth vertebrae. As a result, Blackburn said, Ogden not only lost upper body mobility, but also bladder, bowel and sexual function. "He can push his wheelchair a little bit ... that's it," Blackburn said. The jury awarded the money on Saturday, based on Ogden's estimated loss of wages, pain and suffering and past and future medical costs as well as for his wife's loss of services and companionship. St. Luke's spokeswoman Beth Toal said the hospital will not appeal, though officials believe they "followed their standard of care" in treating Ogden. "St. Luke's recognized this was an unfortunate accident early on, and we took responsibility for the accident," Toal said. "We worked for a long time with the family to solve this, and that continued all the way to trial." The jury's award was close to what the family initially sought as a fair settlement, Blackburn said. Luke's initially offered a $1.8 million settlement and then decided to go to court, he said. "(St. Luke's) underestimated the common sense of an Idaho jury," Blackburn said. Few malpractice cases make it to court in Idaho, said Kurt Holzer, president of the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association. When they do, it's rare that plaintiffs win, he said. Nationally, plaintiffs prevail in about 20 percent to 30 percent of such lawsuits that go to trial, Holzer said, "and Idaho numbers might be in fact even lower than that." Bob Seehusen, chief executive officer of the Idaho Medical Association, said about 85 percent of cases against physicians are resolved in favor of doctors. Blackburn said Ogden and his wife, Heather, 27, are relieved that the case was resolved in their favor, but that relief is tempered by the fact that the father of three young children will need constant care for the rest of his life. "This verdict will not restore their independence, but it will ... allow them to lead as normal a life as possible," Blackburn said.

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