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Ten Largest Medical Malpractice Verdicts in the History of the U.S.

We trust our medical professionals to provide well-informed advice and care to us, but some of them fail to meet the standard of care that is expected of them. In fact, by the age of 65, a jarring 99 percent of physicians in high-risk services will face a medical malpractice claim. 

Medical malpractice is when a medical professional causes a patient harm through a medical error that another professional in the same situation would not have made. Arizona is one of twenty states that doesn’t place a cap – or limit – on medical malpractice damages. This means that there is no legal limit on the amount of compensation that victims of medical malpractice can recover in these states. With this in mind, we would expect Arizona’s medical malpractice payouts to be significantly higher than in other states – and they are. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), Arizona ranked as the thirteenth-highest state in total medical malpractice payouts during 2009-2018. In 2012, four of the top ten civil verdicts in Arizona were in medical malpractice cases. 

At Knapp & Roberts, we believe everyone has the right to quality medical care. Our attorneys have been helping the seriously injured and their surviving family members for over twenty years with the goal to make a difference and change the system that caused the injustice. Through securing maximum financial compensation for our clients, we help them restore their futures. By holding medical professionals or facilities accountable for their misconduct, we aim to prevent future misconduct.

Below we have provided some of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in the U.S. – with an emphasis on Arizona. Note that verdicts for birth injury cases aren’t included in this, and can be found here. 

Compensation awarded $216.7 million 
When was it awarded? 2006
State? Florida 
What was the case about? Even after knowing about his family history of stroke, Allan Navarro’s doctors failed to recognize symptoms of stroke and misdiagnosed him with a sinus infection – sending him home with painkillers instead. The next day, he needed emergency surgery for brain swelling and stayed in a coma for three months. 

The misdiagnosis left Navarro – a basketball pro – brain-damaged and paralyzed. It also resulted in limited cognitive injuries and challenges swallowing food safely. 

It was later discovered that the doctor who performed the initial examination was actually an unlicensed physician’s assistant. Navarro was represented by The Yerrid Law Firm.

What is the significance? This is considered one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in U.S. history. The jury awarded $116.7 million in compensatory damages and another $100.1 million in punitive damages.


Compensation awarded $172 million
When was it awarded? 2014
State? New York
What was the case about? In 1998, 12-year-old Tiffany Applewhite suffered severe brain damage after receiving bad advice from paramedics. Applewhite went into anaphylactic shock after her home nurse gave her a steroid injection to treat an eye infection. Her heart stopped, and Applewhite’s mom immediately called 911. EMTs from the New York City Fire Department arrived at her house but without the equipment necessary to treat Applewhite’s condition. Applewhite’s mom wanted to take her daughter to a nearby hospital but was advised by the EMTs to wait for an advanced life support ambulance – which took another twenty minutes to arrive. 

Today Applewhite requires a feeding tube, a wheelchair and is unable to speak. 

What is the significance?  This is the largest verdict of its kind in New York City. Applewhite’s case – represented by Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore – was originally dismissed because the court did not think the city could be held liable. However, under New York law, the city can be held liable for personal injuries if a “special duty” existed when the governmental functions – such as the EMTs in this case – were performing their duties. 


Compensation awarded $135 million 
When was it awarded? 2018
State? Michigan 
What was the case about? 10-year-old Faith DeGrand was partially paralyzed after a doctor improperly performed surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Detroit Medical Center. DeGrand was brought in for scoliosis surgery to prevent the condition from getting worse. Her surgeon placed rods and screws in DeGrand’s spine to help straighten it, but instead, it compressed her spinal cord and caused numbness in her limbs. By the time her doctor removed the hardware, it was too late to reverse the damage that had been done and that would affect DeGrand for the rest of her life. Fieger Law represented the plaintiff’s case.
What is the significance? As one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in the county, it sets the stage for accountability.


Compensation awarded $43 million
When was it awarded? 2018
State? Texas
What was the case about? Billy Pierce, 61, was misdiagnosed by a doctor on probation and then left under a medically induced coma for over a month until another doctor stepped in, made the correct diagnosis, and successfully performed surgery to remove Pierce’s bile duct stones.


The lawsuit was filed against Tyler’s East Texas Medical Center, who was found guilty of medical malpractice and gross negligence. Martin Walker Law, P.C represented the plaintiff’s side.

What is the significance? The hospital violated their own by-laws by allowing Pierce under the care of  Dr. Gary Boyd, who had been placed under probation only a year ago for misdiagnosis and performing unnecessary procedures. During the trial, the hospital’s own doctors stood up for their patients – testifying against the hospital and its failure to take action when they knew there was misconduct.


Compensation awarded $38.5 million 
When was it awarded? 2013
State? Florida 
What was the case about? Dale Whyte suffered permanent brain injuries and failed to wake up from anesthesia after doctors performed a procedure called “Manipulation Under Anesthesia” at the Atlantic Surgical Center. The doctor admitted later on that the procedure had been unnecessary, and his reasoning behind it was unethical. 

The jury awarded compensation to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, and the loss of companionship for Whyte’s two daughters, ages six and nine, who would grow up without their father. Kelley | Uustal represented the Whyte family.

What is the significance?  This verdict was one of the first to count as a strike against any doctor under the “Three Strikes” Amendment in Florida, which states that Florida doctors will lose their medical licenses if they are found guilty in three or more medical malpractice incidents. In addition, this verdict is considered “a victory for patient safety.”


Compensation awarded $25 million
When was it awarded? 2013
State? Virginia 
What was the case about? At age 41, a misdiagnosis left Christopher Denton permanently disabled, with only half of his heart functioning, and with a significantly shorter life expectancy. According to results from a cardiac catheterization test, Denton had a 70 percent blockage in one of his main arteries. However, his cardiologist Dr. Edward Chu with the Riverside Regional Medical Center concluded that Denton’s heart arteries were disease-free and took him off of his heart medication ‒ switching him to an over-the-counter medication instead.

Months later, Denton suffered a serious heart attack, which destroyed half of his heart function. Following the heart attack, he would need:

  •  Seven additional cardiac catheterizations and heart bypass surgery
  • A heart transplant in five years

Before the heart attack, Denton was in good health and a business owner. After it, he would lose years of his life.

The lawsuit was filed against Cardiovascular Center of Hampton Roads, Inc., and Riverside Physician Services, Inc. The plaintiff’s case was handled by Allen & Allen.

What is the significance?  This was one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the largest personal injury verdict in Hampton. The highest settlement offer had been around a million – significantly less than the amount the jury awarded to Denton.


Compensation awarded $12 million 
When was it awarded? 2017
State? Arizona
What was the case about? Esmeralda Tripp, 46, suffered a heart attack and permanent brain damage due to oxygen deprivation after she was prescribed the incorrect medication by a resident physician only eight weeks out of medical school. Profilnine is a blood-clotting medication, that per hospital guidelines, should be prescribed only in specific circumstances, including to patients who require emergency surgery or have serious or life-threatening bleeding; Tripp fell into neither of these categories. 

The lawsuit was filed against the University of Arizona Health Network (now known as Banner-University Medical Center) and handled by Snyder & Wenner, P.C., on the plaintiff’s side.

What is the significance?  This is the largest verdict in Pima County since at least 2004. It also is an example of when a seemingly small mistake can have life-altering consequences on one person’s life and all of their loved ones – and how even then, the defense may not take responsibility for their actions until they are forced to by the plaintiff’s legal representation. Tripp’s children advise others, like their mom, to do their own research and ask medical professionals lots of questions before starting any new medication – to be as sure as they can be.


Compensation awarded $7.275 million
When was it awarded? 2012
State? Arizona
What was the case about? The lawsuit was filed against an orthopedic surgeon and his employer, on claims that the surgeon’s delay in diagnosis resulted in the permanent knee impairment and aggressive surgeries suffered by the patient, Lori Sandretto. Lloyd & Robinson, PLLC represented Sandretto. In April 2008, Sandretto had surgery to repair a torn meniscus after injuring her knee in a fall. When the pain didn’t subside, she went to a different orthopedic surgeon – Dr. Charles Calkins – for treatment at the Payson Healthcare Management. He performed a second surgery on Sandretto’s knee, which resulted in swelling, redness, and increased pain. Calkins’ physician’s assistant diagnosed Sandretto with a skin infection and prescribed her an antibiotic. Sandretto’s condition worsened, and it was later discovered that she had a serious infection that destroys tissue. The treatments that followed – washout surgeries and a knee replacement – did not relieve Sandretto’s pain. Instead, Sandretto was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition and would not be able to walk normally. 
What is the significance?  This was Arizona’s largest medical malpractice verdict in 2012. The compensation Sandretto received was enough to cover not only her past and future medical bills and lost earnings, but also, the more intangible but equally significant losses she experienced – such as her pain, disfigurement, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment from the delay in diagnosis.  


Compensation awarded $6.3 million 
When was it awarded? 2016
State? Arizona
What was the case about? Mark Brown, a high school wrestling coach, experienced dizziness, blurred vision, neck pain, and nausea during one of his practices. He went to a local hospital and was transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical where he received a diagnosis of benign positional vertigo. Right after he was discharged, he suffered a stroke that caused severe brain damage, loss of vision, and challenges in speaking and walking. At age 39, he requires round-the-clock care.

The lawsuit was filed against the Banner Good Medical Center for the failure to diagnose artery dissection– or when an unusual tear begins forming along the inside wall of the artery. Brown, represented by Harris, Powers & Cunningham, claimed that the medical facility failed to:

  • Review his medical records from the local hospital (where he had gone before his transfer). 
  • To complete a CT scan with contrast (as opposed to without contrast), which would have shown the dissection and may have allowed him to take steps to prevent his stroke.
  • To include a vertebral artery dissection as part of the differential diagnosis. 
What is the significance?  Mark Brown’s life was forever altered from his stroke and from the facility’s failure to diagnose artery dissection. He will never be able to coach again or live the way he had once known. The amount of compensation he recovered will at least allow him the financial and emotional support he will need for the rest of his life, while also, holding the facility accountable for its misconduct.


Compensation Awarded $6 million 
When was it awarded? 2012
State? Arizona
What was the case about? In 2006, Jeffrey Hudson had developed a tension hemothorax in his left lung, with bleeding from his left internal mammary artery. He had quadruple bypass surgery at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center and six days later, died from cardiopulmonary arrest. His two daughters, who were teenagers at the time, claimed that the surgeons and their internist had been slow to respond, diagnose and treat Hudson’s bleeding – and that they should have recognized vital signs of deterioration.  

After their father’s death, his daughters said they were placed in state custody and sent to live in a group room where they faced emotional distress. The jury awarded $3 million to each of Hudson’s daughters and placed the majority of fault on the internist and the medical center. Hudson’s daughters were represented by Friedl Richardson Trial Lawyers.

What is the significance?  Hudson’s daughters lost their father suddenly and at an especially impressionable age. While no one can bring their father back to them, this verdict – which made Arizona’s top ten largest medical malpractice verdicts in 2012 – is a reminder that their loss was not insignificant, and neither was the pain they endured. They will now have the money and resources to seek emotional support – for as long as they need to fully heal.

Why an Attorney Is Needed in Medical Malpractice Cases

It’s important to understand that past results aren’t an indicator of the future; medical malpractice cases are extremely difficult to prove for plaintiffs or the victims. As a result, they are also one of the most challenging types of cases to win at trial. Most medical malpractice cases settle out of the courtroom, and less than ten percent of cases are taken to trial. In the majority of cases, the defendant – doctor, hospital, or another opposing party – wins. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of outcomes are in favor of the plaintiff. 

This is why hiring an experienced attorney is imperative to a successful outcome in your medical malpractice case – more so than in any other type of personal injury case. Only a skilled attorney knows how to present your case in the best possible way – that will effectively tell your story and convince a jury. Medical malpractice is also a specialized area that calls for a lawyer with an equally deep understanding and knowledge of it. A lawyer with plenty of experience with these types of cases will help you fight for the amount of compensation you deserve. He or she will understand what your case is truly worth and won’t let the insurance company’s tactics or opposing party convince them otherwise. Your lawyer will have the resources and knowledge to properly locate and analyze evidence and hire a qualified medical expert who can bring credibility and perspective to your case. Medical malpractice cases feel like a far-reaching goal, but with the right lawyer on your side, they are attainable and worth pursuing. 


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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.