Medical Malpractice - Failure to Prevent Suicide Attempt in Psych Unit

Philip W. Sandler v Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Dr. Sapana Chokshi, Riverside Psychiatric & Counseling Associates 09L-8290 Tried Apr. 17-May 5, 2015
Verdict:  $4,243,588 v Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital ($1,293,588 past medical expenses; $700,000 lost earnings; $500,000 disfigurement; $500,000 pain & suffering; $1,250,000 loss of normal life); Dr. Sapana Chokshi and Riverside Psychiatric & Counseling Associates settled out for $100,000 prior to start of trial.
Judge:  Daniel Joseph Lynch (IL Cook-Law)
Pltf Atty(s):  Elizabeth A. Kaveny and David J. Rashid of Burke, Wise, Morrissey & Kaveny ASKED: $7,200,000
Deft Atty(s):  Stetson F. Atwood and Timothy L. Hogan of Donohue, Brown, Mathewson & Smyth for Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital (SELF-INSURED) OFFER: AGSH $2,000,000 withdrawn
Pltf Expert(s):  Dr. Gary Jacobson of Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St., Boston, MA (781-762-7764) (Psychiatrist), Dr. Bruce H. Price of McLean Hospital, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA (617-855-2354) (Neurologist), Karin Taylor, C.N.S. of Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD (410-955-3844) (Nurse, Psychiatric), Dr. Steven Rothke, Ph.D. (Neuropsychologist), David Gibson (Vocational Economics Analyst) and James J. Radke (Vocational Rehabilitation)
Deft Expert(s):  Dr. Philip K. McCullough (Psychiatrist), Dr. Jerry Sweet, Ph.D. (Neuropsychologist) and Dr. Eric Russell (Neuroradiologist) for Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital
Pltf M-55 tax attorney attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of prescription medication at home on August 3, 2007. After ingesting 50 to 100 pills, he called 911 and was transported to the emergency room at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. E/R personnel revived him and transferred him to a medical unit to stabilize his condition. While still hospitalized, pltf wrapped an EKG cord around his neck in another suicide attempt. He was then transferred to the hospital's Behavioral Health Unit (the psychiatric ward) on August 4. After the transfer, pltf gave hospital staff a boating knife which was among his personal possessions at the hospital. However, he was allowed access to his personal possessions the following day (August 5) and reclaimed the knife. Early the next morning, between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. on August 6, 2007, pltf attempted suicide yet again by stabbing himself approximately three dozen times with his knife. Pltf sustained multiple puncture wounds to his abdomen, arms, neck and back, causing severe blood loss (more than 50% total volume), eleven surgeries, and multiple permanent scars. Pltf was also diagnosed with a hypoxic brain injury which was caused by the massive blood loss and trauma. He has permanent cognitive impairment relating to his executive functions, including concentration, organization and multi-tasking deficits, along with speech difficulties. After the stabbing incident, pltf was treated at three medical and psychiatric institutions before being transferred to a State institution in November 2007; he remained there for ten months and then spent five years at a reintegration facility until he was released in 2013. He is now living independently and receiving ongoing speech and cognition therapy. Pltf contended he can never return to work as a tax lawyer due to his cognitive impairments, and further claimed he is easily agitated due to his condition ($1,293,588 medical expenses, $100,000 - $130,000 annual LT for five to eight years). Pltf asserted the hospital was negligent in allowing him to regain possession of his knife, it was a deviation from the standard of care to allow him access to a dangerous/sharp object given his recent suicidal history, and the hospital staff failed to properly monitor him in the behavioral unit - especially during the four-hour period on August 6 when no nurses or other personnel checked on him. Pltf further contended deft psychiatrist Dr. Chokshi should have placed him on one-to-one observation, but argued that the hospital was at greater fault. The defense for Advocate maintained pltf was contributorily negligent and more than 50% at fault, he retrieved the knife without alerting hospital staff, and he fully recovered from his physical injuries. The defense further argued pltf did not suffer any hypoxic brain injury, he scored high in neuropsychological testing following the occurrence, he was still highly functional on an intelligence level, he had a long history of psychiatric illness prior to this hospitalization, he was not going to return to work as a tax lawyer due to his mental condition regardless of the stabbing incident, and any ongoing issues were related to his pre-existing mental condition. COMPARISON: This is the highest Illinois verdict in JVR records for attempted suicide; prior high was $2.5 million in 2001 (reported at SS 42/1).
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