Federal judge awards $8.6 million in med mal damages

Ann Knef Dec. 9, 2008, 8:15am

A federal judge has awarded $8.6 million in damages in a medical malpractice case filed against the U.S. government over care provided by a Scott Air Force Base doctor.

Jean Phillips of Evans, Ga., claimed she lost total use of her right arm after Dr. Daniel MacAlpine failed to diagnose and treat necrotizing fasciitis, a condition known informally as flesh-eating bacteria.

According to her complaint, four days before she was diagnosed, she was evaluated by MacAlpine, presenting symptoms of redness, swelling and sharp pain in her right arm.

"That on or about May 3, 2002, plaintiff, Jean Phillips, was unable to breathe, went into shock, and was rushed to Scott Air Force Base Emergency room where she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis in her right arm," the complaint states.

Her suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in October 2005.

Magistrate Judge Philip Frazier issued the judgment two weeks ago, nearly seventh months after a bench trial was held.

"This is a sad story," Frazier wrote. "Today, Jean Phillips is 36 years old; divorced with two children who have their own serious mental and emotional health problems; she has a right arm which is withered, disfigured, useless, and causes her continuous and extreme pain; she is unable to maintain regular employment; and she is most likely a narcotics addict. She faces the future with no reason to be optimistic that things will improve."

Frazier awarded $2.5 million for future pain and suffering and $1.5 million for past pain and suffering; $2.5 million for disability in the future and $500,000 for past disability; $500,000 for disfigurement; $495,169 for past and future lost earnings; $215,040 for future medical and $421,581 for past medical.

He credited the government for $110,748 in medical services already rendered.

"Granted, there are more dramatic injuries out there involving multiple amputations and the like, but plaintiff's situation is about as bad as it gets when one considers the impact on her work and personal life," Frazier wrote. "It is the impact that her injuries have had on her life, and not on the precise nature of the injury itself that I have focused on when looking at 'similar cases.'"

Phillips was represented by Thomas Keefe, Jr. of Swansea.

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