Damages Cap Blocks $12M Award for Baby’s Botched Surgery
A jury in Oregon has awarded a couple $12 million for a botched liver surgery on a 9-month-old baby that required him to get an emergency liver transplant.
But the state has a cap on damages by public entities, such as the public hospital in this case, of $3 million — an amount that doesn’t even cover the boy’s transplant surgery.
Lori Horton in 2009 felt a lump on her 6-month-old son, Tyson, that turned out to be cancer. During surgery to remove the tumor at Oregon Health & Science University hospital, Dr. Marvin Harrison and his medical team mistakenly cut through vessels on the left side of the liver.
The mistake was “catastrophic” and required the infant to undergo seven surgeries at Stanford University Children’s Hospital to repair leaking tissues, remove his spleen and transplant his mother’s liver into his body, according to the family’s attorney, David Miller, of the law firm Miller & Wagner.
A jury awarded Horton and her husband, Steve, $12 million.
The verdict is likely to end up as a showdown in the state supreme court over the constitutionality of the state’s damage cap, which was raised in 2009 to the current limit.
The Oregon Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that earlier limits of $200,000 were unconstitutional.
The hospital has paid the $3 million, but according to Miller, much of it went to pay Stanford University Medical Center and the couple still owes $2.5 million in medical bills. The $3 million will not begin to cover Tyson’s lifetime of monitoring, medication and possible new transplant if his body rejects his mother’s liver, he added.
“What keeps us awake at night is we don’t know when Tyson will be faced with a retransplant, or a secondary cancer or an infection or a blood clot,” Lori Horton said. “It could be five days, or five years… . All we want to do is just take care of our son.”