Psych hospital nurse improperly assesses patient, who then attacks another patient. $5.9 million verdict. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Plaintiff was admitted to defendant psychiatric hospital for depression. A violent patient was placed in the room with plaintiff. Plaintiff suffered head injuries after attack by the new patient.

The Case

  • Case Name: Andrew L. Gerard v. BHC Alhambra Hospital, Inc.
  • Court and Case Number: : Los Angeles Superior/ SC110387
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, November 12, 2012
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, November 16, 2010
  • Type of Action: Medical Malpractice
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Bobbi Tillmon
  • Plaintiffs:
    Andrew L. Gerard, 48, college math assistant
  • Defendants:
    BHC Alhambra Hospital, Inc.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $5,990,769
  • Economic Damages:

    $2,990,769

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $3,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Bernard & Bernard by Stephen Bernard and Alena Klimianok , Los Angeles.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith, LLP by Louis Robert DeStefano , Los Angeles.
    Wheeler, Trigg & O’Donnell, LLP by Kevin J. Kuhn, Kara J. Rosenthal, Denver, CO.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    David Rudnick, M.D., psychiatry, Santa Monica
    Deborah Budding, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Manhattan Beach
    Philip Cogen, M.D., Ph.D., psychiatry , Los Angeles
    Nancy Henry, R.N., Ph.D., psychiatric nursing, Torrance
    H. Ronald Fisk, M.D., neurology, Los Angeles
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Edwin C. Amos, III, M.D., neurology, Santa Monica
    Daniel Auerbach, M.D., psychiatry, Encino
    Kyle Boone, Ph.D., clinical neuropsychology, Torrance
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    David T. Fractor, Ph.D., economics, Pasadena
    Karen Luckett, life care planning, Santa Barbara
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Ted Vavoulis, M.S., economics, Los Angeles
    Stacey R. Helvin, life care planning, Yorba Linda

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On July 30, 2010, plaintiff was admitted to a UCLA Hospital for evaluation and treatment for his depression and suicidal ideation. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was placed on a 72-hour hold. Plaintiff was later transferred to defendant facility BHC Alhambra Hospital, Inc. for further care.

    On July 29, 2010 at 5 p.m., Bobby Hurtado was brought by ambulance to the Providence Holy Cross Hospital emergency department (Providence) and admitted with diagnoses of self-inflicted stab wound to chest and acute psychosis. Hurtado had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Hurtado was placed in physical and chemical restraints. Hurtado's Providence physician reported that, "the patient claims to be hearing voices, raising the specter of an acute psychosis." While at Providence, Hurtado suddenly became agitated, jumped off the gurney, ripped out his IV catheter and ran into the hallway. It took several off-duty police officers to restrain him and place him back on the gurney. Hurtado was provided with a one-to-one sitter and an ICU-level admission along with Haldol and Ativan medications. He had been previously prescribed antipsychotic medication, but had not been taking any medication for several months.

    On July 30, 2010, Hurtado was transferred to defendant  facility BHC Alhambra Hospital for further psychiatric intervention and care. Daisy Lao, R.N., BHC's charge nurse on staff the night of the incident, was responsible for assessing and evaluating patient risk assessment factors to ensure patients' placement is appropriate for everyone's safety. Lao designated Hurtado a low risk on the Assault/Violence risk scale based on her 30-minute interview with him during which she stated he appeared to be calm and cooperative. She did not base her evaluation on the recent history of Hurtado in the transferring hospital. The CEO of defendant BHC testified that a 30-minute "snapshot in time" interview as means of risk assessment for, among other things, assault/violence risk was a policy of BHC. Following Nurse Lao's evaluation of both Mr. Hurtado and plaintiff, they were placed in the same room.

    In the early morning hours of July 31, 2010, BHC staff found plaintiff (Gerard) lying on the floor, face down and bleeding from a head wound. Hurtado was standing over plaintiff. Plaintiff Gerard was assessed as having a loss of consciousness and being responsive only non-verbally. Based on the investigation that followed, plaintiff had offered to share some food with Hurtado, who struck plaintiff because, "he [Gerard] got in my face."

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That Nurse Lao was negligent in her risk-violence assessment of Hurtado in that she chose to ignore Hurtado's recent history of behaviors at Providence Hospital, directly resulting in his placement in the same room with plaintiff.

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That Lao and BHC's conduct was within the standard of care, and that Hurtado's conduct was a superseding cause.

    Defendant contested the nature and extent of injury: that plaintiff did not suffer any cognitive function deficits, that all of the deficits and personality disorders were, at least in part, a result of his pre-existing psychiatric condition.

    Further, that plaintiff will be able to get back to work both as a private math tutor and in a position of a math assistant at Santa Monica College or its equivalent without any further reduction in income by March 2013 after completing three to four months of recommended cognitive therapy.

     

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    As a result of the assault, plaintiff sustained multiple skull and facial fractures and major intracranial damage. He was placed on life-support and spent 28 days at the USC Hospital, followed by a prolonged convalescence period.

    Plaintiff was diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury manifesting in the extensive loss of brain matter and frontal lobe syndrome. Currently, plaintiff is having a multiplicity of problems in all aspects of his life, including but not limited to, severe personality and executive function deficits. His ability to control behavioral impulsivity and determine appropriateness of certainly behaviors has sharply diminished. He experiences headaches, dizziness, and is light sensitive.

    Plaintiff claimed that he needs future medical care and home assistance for at least five hours a day, seven days a week.

     

  • Loss of future income: Plaintiff contended that he should be able to return to work as a private math tutor with 57 percent reduction in income.  He will not, however, be able to regain like employment at Santa Monica College which he lost due to his injuries.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $288,689
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $1,301,850
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $163,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $1,237,230

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant Offer during Trial: $1,200,000

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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