Jury awards $6M to woman in medical lawsuit

Sally Clawson suffered brain damage after having outpatient back surgery in March 2007.

Sally Clawson, 59, now must live with her son, Michael, in Springfield, who has power of attorney. She can walk, but has such little short-term memory that she gets lost if she leaves the house, Cleveland-based attorney Jay M. Kelley said Tuesday, Oct. 20.

Kelley and partners Phillip Kuri and Egan Kilbane represented Clawson and her son at trial.

She suffers seizures, cannot speak, and requires help eating as “people have to help her to actually chew,” Kelley said.

On Friday, the jury found Dr. Lawrence Rothstein and his employer, Riverview Health Institute, 1 Elizabeth Place, liable for her injuries. The jury heard two weeks of testimony, then deliberated seven hours .

The jury decided another physician, Cara Perez, and a nurse, Linda Wiles, were not liable.

Neither Rothstein nor Riverview Health Institute has malpractice insurance, according to court records.

“This is not the outcome anybody wants,” said attorney Michael Lyon of Cincinnati, who represented Rothstein. He called the Clawson family “some of the finest, nicest people I’ve ever met.”

An appeal would be filed because “there’s a couple of rather provocative and complex legal issues that the court of appeals needs to address,” Lyon said.

Attorney David Lockemeyer of Cincinnati, who represented Riverview Health Institute, could not be reached for comment.

Clawson had a 30-minute laser procedure March 2, 2007. While in recovery just after 1 p.m., she complained of pain. Rothstein prescribed 20 mg of morphine in the first 60 minutes, then 20 mg of Valium, a mix Kelley said can create high risk for respiratory problems.

She started vomiting, so she was given additional medications. At 2:45 p.m., she became “nonresponsive to verbal stimuli” and had a “wild look in her eyes,” according to the medical records.

During the next 53 minutes, she drifted in and out of consciousness. At 3:38, a second physician intubated her, allowing more oxygen into her lungs. Had the doctors intubated her before 3 p.m., Clawson would have avoided the profound brain injury, Kelley said.

The verdict allows for:

  • $4 million for future medical care, $73,000 for past care.
  • $182,000 for future lost wages, $50,000 for past lost wages.
  • $1.25 million for past and future pain and suffering.
  • $500,00 for loss of ability to perform daily activities.
  • $250,000 for a consortium claim by her son.

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.