Woman Passes Out After Drinking Binge and Sues Hospital after Legs Are Amputated

This is an interesting and tragic case of contributory or comparative negligence. Shanna Hiles was celebrating her 20th birthday and got so drunk that she passed out with her legs tucked under her for 12 hours –cutting off blood to her extremities. Both of her legs had to be amputated and she blamed the hospital that made her wait of six hours to be treated as her condition worsened.

Obviously, there is a considerable level of contributory negligence. Under the old contributory negligence rule, Hiles would be barred entirely since any negligence on the part of the plaintiff blocks recovery. Only three jurisdictions still apply this rule. There are two types of comparative negligence jurisdiction. Pure comparative negligence jurisdictions simply reduce the amount of the damages by whatever fault is attributed to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is 90 percent at fault, she receives ten percent of the award. Pennsylvania uses a modified comparative fault rule where the plaintiff is barred if she is 51% or more at fault, but can recover if 50% or less at fault.

It will come down to that question of the condition and the delay in care. The delays in emergency rooms are a national disgrace. We have seen cases where people have died in emergency rooms and have not been found for hours. However, this condition was pretty far along when she arrived. There may be a collateral issue of a reduction in chances of survival. About 20 states allow patients to recover for lost survivability even if the person was less than likely to survive. The leading case in this “loss of chance” area is Herskovits v Group Health Cooperative. Pennsylvania is one of these states. That could change the equation for comparative negligence since the issue is the lost statistical chance for survival.

She was diagnosed with diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome.

Her lawyers insist that the condition could have been reversed or treated during that period of time at Uniontown Hospital in Pennsylvania.

For the full story, click here and here.

29 thoughts on “Woman Passes Out After Drinking Binge and Sues Hospital after Legs Are Amputated”

  1. Re: jhngalt5’s remarks on tax breaks for new doctors

    Sounds like trickle-down medicine to me and we all know how well that theory worked in the economy.

  2. Of course it’s stupid, but it’s also a tragedy. I don’t know you, but I’ve certainly known myself as well as my peers in undergrad, and this kind of stupidity is rampant—and virtually a right of passage. Anytime a young person unnecesarily loses their legs, it is a tragedy in my book.
    It is a shame when any preventable death occurs, but, yes, many (certainly not all) of these people are losers if they grow up in America, but don’t make enough of themselves to afford healthcare. That doesn’t mean I rejoice in their death. When I am older and have the means, I view it as my moral duty to voluntarily give to charity to prevent such deaths, but it is NOT the place of the government to force such donations via the income tax (besides, government has proven throughout history that everything they touch will turn to crap). Also, if you look at Great Britian, that great liberal bastian of socialized medicine, you will see where recently a 22 year old alcoholic died because he was denied a liver transplant. That is simply cruelty. I know universal healthcare is tempting because it sounds so warm and fuzzy, but as an economist, I can tell you with no uncertainty that this is not the answer. The answer is lower income taxes—before you write me off, consider my arguments. Let’s look at Doctors. Doctors can easily rack up half a million dollars in student debt pursuing their education. Assuming they make $250,000 after graduation (a generous assumption) they will then pay 40-50% of their income to the government, depending on which state they live in. Now, if someone is trying to pay off massive debt and start a family (b/c it takes time to become a doctor, and many women will start to hear their biological clock ticking by the time their time), there is not very much money left. What if we gave new doctors a five year grace period where they are exempt from income tax? They could pay down their debt, start a new family, and (most importantly for purposes of this discussion) they could afford to take time out to volunteer their time at charity clinics or hospitals. This way, freedom is preserved and the needs of the poor are met. I would also suggest a shorter tax-free period for nurses. You could also institute a policy whereby each volunteer manhour worked by a veteran doctor or nurse would earn them a tax break equal to what they would have been paid for their charity work.

  3. Flipkid: “An alcohol binge that results in a 12 hour coma isn’t a tradgedy; it’s stupidity.”

    Of course it is, much risky behavior in adolescents is and it persists into the early 20’s for sure. The prefrontal cortex which moderates risky behaviors doesn’t mature until about 20 years of age. You might want to read the following article which deals specifically with alcohol use and development of the prefrontal cortex.

    I have read a couple of articles about risk taking by adolescents and people in their early twenty’s and they placed the time to maturity of the prefrontal cortex in the mid-twenty’s. Young people do stupid stuff because to a good extent they’re ‘brain damaged’ by lack of a mature and fully functioning prefrontal cortex. That kind of puts it in the tragedy category because she was predictably doomed by an innate neurological flaw. Kinda’ mixed a literary metaphor and a medical condition there but you probably get the point.

    http://www.globaldrugpolicy.org/3/3/2.php

  4. “Change these laws, and tragedies like this will become far less common.”

    “Tradgedies”?? An alcohol binge that results in a 12 hour coma isn’t a tradgedy; it’s stupidity.

  5. Suggestion Box:

    Motorists who receive minor parking or traffic tickets in Indianapolis, Indiana are being threatened with fines of up to $2500 if they attempt to take the ticket to court. A local attorney with the firm Roberts and Bishop was so outraged by what he saw in Marion County traffic court that he filed a class action suit yesterday seeking to have the practice banned as unconstitutional.

    In traffic court, Judge William Young has been making good on the threats by routinely siding with police officers in disputes and imposing fines of up to $500 on anyone who challenges a moving violation ticket, no matter how minor, and loses. Those who pay without going to court do not face this extra fine.

    “Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the city may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months,” the city press release stated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fy29chIA34
    http://www.theindychannel.com/news/21899259/detail.html

  6. jhngalt5:

    Should I count as losers the 45000 of our fellow citizens who die each year because they cannot afford healthcare?

    By the by, you would have made a wonderful 18th Century French aristocrat. Cake anyone?

  7. Race nothing, every race has losers. Why reward those losers with free healthcare at the expense of people who actually support themselves? Besides, what do you think universal healthccare will do? We’ll still have the same amount of doctors and health infrastructure.

  8. My wife and father both hail from Uniontown. Knowing the jurisdiction and even trying a case or two there, I can tell you it’s plaintiff’s country and my recommendation is to settle this one.

  9. jhngalt5: “Change these laws, and tragedies like this will become far less common.”

    Yes, a change of law to mandate universal health care would do so to the benefit of the country.

    Directly engaging on anything else alluded to in that posting – which has the glowing radioactive sheen of looking for an opportunity to inject race into an otherwise serious debate by someone who takes their nom de plume from a character in an Ayn Rand book – would seem to be indulging a trollish attitude. Not going there. Don’t want to hear it.

  10. I live in area with a large ghetto population, and everytime I need to go to the ER, there are about 50 hoodrats with head colds waiting for free medical care that the law mandates. Change these laws, and tragedies like this will become far less common.

  11. Athena, thank you for the added information.
    ———

    maverratick, Your story is a true horror story. I have my own and the longer I think about it the more I believe that at the time I had a good tort as well as a horror story. The first thing one might think reading your remarks about the hospital going into CYA mode is fear of a malpractice claim. That probably plays into it but after spending more than one evening in a emergency room in the last several years I noticed other factors also.

    Insurance OKs. While I was being put off about the total lack of necessary care for the better half the emergency room clerk/gatekeeper was on the phone to my insurance company and the better half ended up spending 2 1/2 hours on a gurney in a public corridor with a life threatening illness; an illness that I recognized immediately and ran around telling everybody I could buttonhole what he had and needed quick treatment for. (Yes, I was right also.)

    So here’s the question I have to ask because this situation happened on two different occasions: are they more afraid of malpractice claims or insurance companies? IMO it’s the bottom line they were pursuing and it was more important than fear of a malpractice charge.

    Also, the concept of an ’emergency’ room is completely degraded. If a hospital runs an emergency room should it not be staffed adequately to handle the workload? From my observations emergency rooms are the physician of last resort for the uninsured and those unable to pay the up-front charge at commercial clinics.

    I’ve used those and after a brief initial assessment your told that if you’re uninsured you will need to pay some portion of your care ($50.00 the last time I used one) or if you’re insured you need to pay your co-pay for the visit before you can get treatment. Those are the places anybody should be able to get a bad cold, a broken finger/toe/nose set or a cut stitched up.

    On my trips to emergency rooms I know to hang around the counter even though they shoo you away routinely I just stand a little distance away. I know it’s rude and robs other people of privacy but it’s a good place to buttonhole actual doctors until you get into the emergency treatment suite. There were a lot of broken digits and cuts that needed a couple of stitches coming forward from what I overheard. These are appropriate for doctor’s office and commercial clinic visits.

    The whole system seems to me to be overspecialized, treatments I previously received in a doctors office (set a broken nose) now require a trip to the hospital at the doctors direction. This is a product delivery, assembly line, profit maximizing strategy IMO, not a patient care strategy.

    It’s all about the bottom line and yes, I’m pretty unhappy with it and what looks like a lack of meaningful reform coming out of this Congress.

    Geeze, I just looked up at the TV and my Democratic Senator (Clair McCaskill) is on Hardball talking about what a proposal is coming out of the Senate and how some/many people in her state are unhappy with it because they’re misinformed. I will so vote against her- what a tool. Not a new vow, just reinforcing my original displeasure with her.

  12. I had a seizure recently and was brought (needlessly) to an ER, which is always where I end up after a series of successive ass-coverings. The best place to go after a seizure is to bed, to sleep for about 20 hours to recover. The very worst thing for recovery is to be kept awake. I’ll keep migraining and vomiting and crashing into things until I can get to sleep.

    First bystanders call 911, then the ambulance guys have to cover their asses so they haul me to the hospital, then the ass-covering there means they need to 1. strap me to a wooden board on a gurney to prevent me from moving, 2. leave me on my back under a fluorescent light for six hours, and 3. finally diagnose me with epilepsy (gee thanks) which costs about $800. They won’t just take my word for it because they call me too delirious. The medical bracelet that says “EPILEPSY” isn’t good enough either. That wouldn’t cover their asses well enough.

    This has happened again and again. Earlier this year I was on a gurney in an ER, strapped to the wooden board, over my feet, legs, arms, and forehead. Unable to move my head left or right. These waves of nausea kept coming and I was struggling not to throw up down my own windpipe. Nobody was paying any attention to me; occasionally a nurse would come by and I begged at least for the head restraint to be loosened so I could turn it to the side, because I was afraid of choking. I was going to vomit any minute. She told me she wouldn’t be able to cover her ass without a specific order from the attending physician to loosen the forehead restraint, and left.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever been about to vomit with your head forced in a face up position, but it’s very dangerous. I’m 99% sure I’m going to die in an ER, strapped to a board, with my head locked face up, and my face covered with vomit. Suffocated under all the asses that have been covered. I’m amazed it hasn’t happened already.

  13. Former RN speaking: if she was still drunk when she went to the hospital, it is very possible any treatment had to be delayed till she sobered up. Many medications are contraindicated when there’s ETOH on board. And taking an inebriated patient into surgery is extremely risky. Since alcohol constricts blood vessels, she contibuted to her own problem.

  14. It is a waste of the courts time. It’s obvious that the judge will throw this out. Even a non lawyer type like me can see she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  15. The woman will be permanently ‘legless’ now!

    It’s a heavy price to pay for a night out! Surely she has some grounds to sue. In Australia she could.

  16. Tag her and bag her. Geeze, like what’s the drinking age where she’s from? 21 I am sure. 20 come on, who else could be cross claimed or third partied.

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