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$22 Million Awarded For ‘Negligent’ Angiogram

March 23, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Neuroradiology
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A California woman paralyzed by a stroke that her lawyers blamed on an angiogram won a $22 million medical malpractice verdict on Monday.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court jury found that the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), of the San Francisco Bay area, should pay $2 million for past earnings losses and medical expenses, $14 million for future economic losses and medical expenses, and $6 million for pain and suffering.

California law caps pain and suffering awards at $250,000, so the actual award will be $16.25 million, pending possible adjustments by the judge and a likely appeal.

Robyn Frankel of Menlo Park, California, had suffered from migraines since childhood. She had undergone several noninvasive imaging procedures, including MRI, in unsuccessful attempts to find the cause.

In 2006, when Frankel was 43, PAMF doctors ordered a cerebral angiogram. According to Frankel’s subsequent lawsuit, she was not told that the procedure was invasive and risky. After the contrast dye was injected, she suffered a stroke.

Frankel was in a coma for six weeks. She woke up with limited use of her left side and no use of her right side. At first, she could not speak. In an e-mail, she told the Palo Alto Weekly:

I was able to recover enough that I can now speak slowly. I have use of my left arm. I can stand with help, and I can sit in a wheelchair, but still need 24/7 care and need to be turned every two hours at night.

One of Frankel’s lawyers, Summer Woodson, said Frankel’s care costs $300,000 to $350,000 a year.

PAMF doctors did not actually do the procedure because the clinic lacked the necessary facilities. They referred Frankel to Stanford University’s Stanford Hospital & Clinics, where Stanford radiologists performed the angiogram. Stanford was also named in the lawsuit but settled for an undisclosed sum on February 21, the first day of the trial.

Expert witnesses testified that the angiogram was unnecessary and would have provided no information that the earlier imaging had not revealed. The jury found that the PAMF had been negligent in Frankel’s treatment and that its negligence substantially contributed to the harm she suffered.

A statement from PAMF’s CEO, Richard Slavin, MD, posted Thursday on the PAMF Web site, reads in part:

We deeply sympathize with Ms. Frankel and her family. While we respect the jury process, the medical group is presently considering its legal options. We believe that the care provided by the Palo Alto Medical Group was appropriate.

Frankel has two children, ages 8 and 16. According to the Palo Alto Daily News, she and her husband divorced after her injury.

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