Florida Man Suffered TBI, Was Paralyzed In Crash: When Will He Get His $10.75 Million Award?


Posted on 20th February 2012 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , ,

Florida’s law regarding caps on jury awards is disgracefully flawed.

Just consider the case of a Sunrise, Fla., man who sustained severe brain injury, and was paralyzed, in a crash 14 years ago.  His family has been trying to get his judgment of $10.75 million approved for four years now, according to The Ledger of Florida.  


You see, under the law in the Sunshine State lawmakers have to sign off on judgments against the government that are more than $200,000. And Eric Brody’s case involved a public official: a Broward County sheriff’s deputy, according to The Ledger.

Brody, 32, was paralyzed and must now use a wheelchair — and suffered traumatic brain injury — when he was struck by the officer’s car in 1998.  

Last week a subcommittee of the Florida House passed 16 “claims bills,” meaning they reviewed the cases of plaintiffs who were killed or hurt in incidents involving police officers, bus drivers and other public employees, The Ledger reported. And Brody’s case was one of those approved.

In the case of Brody’s family, they have been coming to Florida legislators for the last four years, without having their claims bill aproved. But now the family has at least two lawmakers on their side: Rep. Marty Kiar and Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Kiar was apparently part of the subcommittee that voted in favor of Brody getting his $10.76 million award, and Haridopolos told The Ledger that getting the Brody family its money was one of his priorities this year.

But there’s still several catches before Brody can get his $10 million award.

“A discrepancy between the House and Senate over caps on fees for lawyers and lobbyists will have to be ironed out,” The Ledger wrote of one of them.

Why should a plaintiff such as Brody have to go through hoops to get the award a jury believes he deserves?

It’s absurd that Brody and his family have to wait for their money.



Two Brain Injury Verdicts Make Top 10 List For 2011


Posted on 21st January 2012 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , , ,

Lawyers USA’s list of the Top 10 Jury Verdicts in 2011 includes two cases involving traumatic brain injury, with one of them regarding Botox.  

The unusual Botox case resulted in a $212 million award against Allergan, which makes Botox, by a federal jury in Virginia last April. The sad part is that Virginia has a state cap on punitive damages, which could knock down the jury’s $200 million in punitive damages to just $350,000, according to Lawyers USA.


The Botox case involved Douglas Ray Jr., 67, who had developed hand tremors ever since his return from Vietnam. Ray’s doctor told him to get Botox treatments for his hand. After his third visit and injection, Ray first got a rash, then appeared to be confused and eventually sustained brain damage, according to Lawyers USA. Now he can’t walk, talk or feed or dress himself.

Ray’s lawsuit charged that Allergan failed to warn him about the risks of Botox. In Ray’s case, apparently the active ingredient in Botox —  botulinum toxin type A, made from botulism — moved from his arm muscle to his bloodstream and traveled to his brain.      

Botox doesn’t have Food and Drug Administration approval to be used to treat hand tremors, according to Lawyers USA. In fact, last year Allergan forked over $600 million in fines for marketing Botox for off-label uses.

The second case on Lawyers USA’s Top 10 List involving brain damage was a $144 million verdict for the birth of a baby who developed cerebral palsy. The lawsuit involved the botched birth of Kimberly VanSlembrouck’s daughter at William Beaumont Hospital in Michigan. It  charged that her baby should have undergone a Caesarian, not a vaginal, birth.


According to Lawyers USA, VanSlembrouck had gained a lot of weight during her pregnancy, and her doctor should not have risked her doing a vaginal birth. Markell, the newborn girl, suffered serious injuries coming through the birth canal, including three brain hemorrhages, Lawyers USA reported. She was purple with bruises.

The hospital did testing on Markell after she was born, and found that she had abnormal brain development, which it later blamed on a genetic condition called pontocerebellar hypoplasia.   

After being in intensive care for three weeks, doctors determined that Markell had cerebral palsy secondary to birth trauma, according to Lawyers USA.   

The girl is a 15-year-old now, and can’t walk or talk. She needs 24/7 care and assistance doing everything from eating to dressing.

After a three-week trial, the Michigan jury granted the $144 million award. It looks like it didn’t buy the hospital’s gambit that Markell’s medical problems were genetic.

Family Awarded $1 Million From Medical Examiner’s Office That Kept Their Son’s Brain


Posted on 27th November 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , ,

Justice sometimes does triumph.

A Staten Island, N.Y., couple has won a $1 million judgment against the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, which retained their dead son’s brain without their permission or knowledge, the New York Post reported Saturday.


In a macabre twist in an already freaky case, the parents of Jesse Shipley, 17, didn’t discover that they didn’t have his brain until some of his high school friends saw it in a marked jar during a field trip to Staten Island’s morgue.

Jesse was killed in a car crash in January 2005, and was autopsied by the local medical examiner. But the Medical Examiner’s Office returned Jesse’s body to his parents for burial without his brain, without mentioning that little tidbit to the Shipley family. Doctors wanted to perform tests on the organ, according to the Post.

Jesse’s family only learned that their son’s body was missing its brain when they buried it because of the shocking incident during the field trip. That when Jesse’s schoolmates chanced upon his brain in the jar, the Post reported.

Needless to say, the teens told Shipley’s surprised family what they had seen. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, “a Catholic priest told the family that Jesse’s burial wasn’t proper without his brain,” according to the Post.

The family didn’t get the brain back until October 2005, and they subsequently filed suit against the Medical Examiner’s Office. The city was liable, according to a Staten Island Supreme Court judge, under the so-called right of sepulcher, which says that a family is entitled to all the remains of a relative, according to the Post.

The defense didn’t have a leg to stand on. The city apparently contended that Jesse’s father Andre Shipley “would have known his son’s brain were being kept for further testing if he’d known to ask,” the Post reported.


It probably didn’t help the defense’s case, either, when a medical examiner said he keep Jesse’s brain hanging around in a jar because he waits until he has a half dozen brains before calling in a neuropathic examiner to study them, the Post said.

We hope in those other cases that the families knew their loved one’s brains had been withheld from them, unlike the Shipleys.

The Shipleys did lose one legal acton last year, when the family sued claiming that their son’s brain had been displayed unlawfully. An appellate court threw that claim out, the Post reported.     


West Virginia Hospital Overradiated CT Brain Scan Patients, Report Says


Posted on 13th March 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, ,

It appears that a hospital screwed up doing CT brain scans, even after federal regulators put out warnings telling medical facilities to be more careful performing that very procedure. 

Cabell Huntington Hospital in West Virginia is the facility that overradiated patients during CT scans for more than a year after the Food and Drug Administration had already issued an alert after uncovering similar incidents regarding that particular scan, according to The New York Times. 


 The Times dug up records that disclosed that the West Virginia hospital had allegedly been overdosing patients with radiation until the end of November.

At least 20 of the patients, who were overradiated as they were checked for strokes, have retained a lawyer. These patients got a letter from the hospital saying that they had been given too much radiation.

The procedure in question is a CT brain perfusion scan, and issues with it first came to light in summer 2009 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to The Times. The FDA launched a study on why some patients were getting too much radiation during the procedure.

The FDA issued its report on the matter last November, finding that manufacturers needed to better train medical staff to use the complex equipment used in the CT scans. The report also recommended that the CT machines have a better sysem to tell technicians when the radiation they are dispensing is at too high a level.

In one case in West Virginia cited by The Times, Marcie Iseli, 36, lost sections of her hair after having a CT procedure in November. She went for the CT because she had been feeling numbness on one side of her face. According to The Times, Iseli had been given 10 times too much radiation, and felt nauseated after her CT.

The manufacturer who made the CT equipment is G.E. Medical Systems. And it’s doubtful this is the last time we’ll be hearing that name.

Widow Gets $6 Million For Husband’s Deadly Fall At A Rehab Facility


Posted on 26th November 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , ,

The widow of a man who died after falling out of a wheelchair and hitting his head at a New Jersey rehabilitation facility was awarded $6 millon by a jury last Friday, according to the Times of Trenton.


The panel in Mercer County, N.J., rendered the verdict on behalf of Elizabeth Shufflebotham, the wife of deceased George Shufflebotham, 62, of Lambertville, N.J., against the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center. The retired accountant-turned-real estate agent was rendered brain-dead following his fall there on Oct. 12, 2003.

Shufflebotham suffered a stroke at his home on Oct. 7, 2003, and was sent to the St. Lawrence facility for therapy on his left side. A few days later, Oct. 12, he fell out of his wheelchair and bumped his head. But the rehab facility did not make him undergo a CT scan, it instead just sent him back to bed, according to the Times.

But just hours later, a nurse noticed that Shufflebotham’s pupils were slowly reacting to light, which is an indicator of brain hemorrhaging. But the rehab facility still didn’t take him to the hospital.

It was only the next day, after Shufflebotham was vomiting and in a sweat, that St. Lawrence finally rushed him to the hospital. He was basically brain-dead at that point, and was put on life support. Then his brain totally stopped functioning and his family took him off life support. ‘

The lawsuit against St. Lawrence charged the facility with negligence, arguing that Shufflebotham could have been saved if a CT had been conducted right after his fall.  


What We Missed Out On In The Missing Brain Case In New York City


Posted on 18th October 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , ,

About two weeks ago I wrote about a horrendous case in New York City, where the local coroner had taken the brain of a 17-year-old youth killed in a car accident, Jesse Shipley, without notifying or getting permission from his family. In a horrifying twist of fate two months later, kids from the youth’s school went on a field trip to the morgue and saw the dead boy’s brain there, sitting in a jar with his name on it.


The case made the front page of the Big Apple’s two tabloids, the New York Post and Daily News. In reflecting on the matter, it really entailed several tragedies: The family’s pain over the discovery of Jesse’s vital organ, which they hand’r  even known was missing; the horror of the school mates that saw it; and the fact that there was no autopsy done on that brain.

After Jesse was killed in a car accident on Jan. 9, 2005, and his family agreed to an autopsy of the body the next day. The youth’s remains were picked up and a funeral was held three days later. What the Shipley family didn’t know was that Jesse’s brain was not with his body. 

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office had kept Jesse’s brain to do tests on it, and that those tests were done a day or so after the field trip. Jesse’s family got a temporary restraining order to stop any additional tests on his brain, which was returned to them. 

It’s unclear what kind of tests the ME’s office did in fact do on the youth’s brain, or whether the coroner can keep those results, as his office is now being sued by Shipley’s family. The Shipley family filed a claim against New York City and the medical examiner’s office in March 2006, asking for damages for the improper handling of their son’s remains. 

I’ve been a vocal advocate of the need to have autopsie done more often on brains so that we learn more about the less traumative types of head injury, namely mild traumatic brain injury. 

With no sure-fire tests in existance now to detect the more subtle kinds of brain injury, we need all the clinical research done that we can. And the best research is examining an actual brain. Having an accurate gauge on brain injury is particularly important in terms of the future treatment of the thousands of U.S. troops who have suffered concussions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   

 We could have had that research opportunity with young Jesse’s brain, if the New York coroner hadn’t violated the rules by spiriting away the brain of a family’s loved one without its permission.

Epilepsy Drug Connected To Major Birth Defects In Babies


Posted on 16th June 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , , , , ,

The epilepsy drug valproic acid, when taken by expectant mothers in their first trimester, has been linked to birth defects in the brain, heart and arms of newborns, according to a new study.


For example, babies whose moms took valproic acid , whose brand names include Depakene and Depakote, were almost seven  times more likely to suffer with craniosyostosis, which is a fusion of the skull when the fetus is still in the womb. That fusion put hinders skull and brain development.

In terms of other birth  defects, mothers who took valproic acid during the first three months of their pregnancy incresed their odds, by 12.7  times, of  having a baby with spina bifida, which is when the spinal cord and backbone don’t develop properly, compared to women who didn’t take the drug.

Newborns whose mothers took valproic acid were also five times more likely to have a cleft palate;  2.5 times more likely to have the athrial septal heart defect; and more than two times as likely to have an extra finger on their hand. 

Those statistics have to be put in context. Even though there is a higher risk of birth defects for children of  mothers who took the anti-seizure medication, that risk overall is not huge. In the case of spina bifida, the risk went from 0.6 percent, or six in 1,000, compared with 0.5, or five in 1,000, for children whose mother’s hadn’t taken the anti-sezure medication.

Scientists are advising women of childbearing age to find a substitute drug to ward off seizures.

The study was published in The New England  Journal of  Medicine.



Former Arena Football Player Sues Team Doctor for Malpractice Over Concussions


Posted on 19th March 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , , , ,

A case in Denver may be the first lawsuit where a professional football player is charging a team doctor with malpractice, for the way the physician treated his concussions, since the issue of head injuries came to national prominence three years ago, according to The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/19/sports/football/19concussions.html?ref=sports

The legal action was filed Wednesday by a former Arena Football League player, Clay Rush, against Dr. Saurabh Mangalik, team doctor for the now-defunct Colorado Crush, as well as the physician’s employer, HealthONE Clinical Services. The doctor and HealthONE were independent contractors for the team.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in a Colorado state court in Denver, Rush alleges that in 2008 he suffered several hits to his head during several games. The litigation alleges that Mangalik botchedhis treatment of Rush, which had led to permanent brain injury for the player.

The suit charges that Mangalik just treated Rush for a headache, failing to evaluate and observe him before letting him go back to play.

In a phone interview with The Times, Mangalik denied any wrongdoing and said he didn’t know there had been any problems with Rush’s care until he was contacted by the newspaper.

The doctor also asserted that he had warned Rush and Crush trainers that the injured player should not resume practice or return to play until his brain injury symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness, disappeared.

The Colorado Crush team don’t exist anymore.

There have been lawsuits similar to the one filed by Rush. La Salle University last November paid $7.5 million to settle a suit brought by a player who sustained a bad concussion and claimed that the school’s medical staff didn’t give him adequate treatment.

Ten years ago, former National Football League running back Merril Hoge sued Dr. John Munsell, the former Chicago Bears team doctor. The case was later settled, with the terms remaining confidential, according to The Times.

The ‘Choking Game’ The Latest Fad For Parents To Lose Sleep Over


Posted on 26th January 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , , ,

I spend my entire career trying to get justice for those who have suffered brain damage because of the wrongful conduct of others. How frustrating for me as a lawyer, how scary for me as a parent to read about the latest phenomenon among our young people. The so-called “choking game” has become such a concern that newspapers across the country have been writing about it, including The New York Times and The Star-Ledger of Newark. N.J., last week.

Although the choking game may be a mystery to you, it may not be one to your kids, as The Times points out in its story, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/23/health/research/22choke.html?scp=1&sq;=brain%20damage&st;=cse.

The practice, which can lead to brain damage, is also know as “pass out” or “space monkey,” according to the Ledger’s story, http://www.nj.com/parenting/lee_lusardiconnor/index.ssf/2010/01/the_choking_game_should_you_question_your_kids.html.

In the choking game pressure is applied to the neck, by oneself using a belt or scarf, or someone else doing it. The brain’s lack of oxygen leads to a euphoria or “high” for the person being strangled. Some go so far as to seek to become unconscious, because when they come to they get another high.

But it can be a deadly game at the very worse, and cause brain damage at the worse. The “game” has been blamed dozens of adolescent deaths across the country, according to The Times.

A new statewide survey, from Oregon, sparked the recent press coverage of the phenomenon. The rather astounding results published by The Times were that one in three eighth graders in Oregon have heard of the choking game, and 1 in 20 have taken part in it. Youths in rural areas were more likely to have tried it.

The not-so-fun choking game has caused an estimated 82 deaths from 1995 to 2007, according to s survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Times reported. Most of those deaths were of males 11 to 16 years.

Hospital told to pay damages for mistaking babies


Posted on 20th July 2009 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

, , , , , ,

Even under American law, this would be a tough case to determine damages. How does a couple effectively argue that they have been wronged for loving a child for 16 years, even if it is the wrong child? Similar issues have thwarted efforts to get compensation for botched birth control methods as well. But those issues notwithstanding, $55,793 for giving a couple the wrong child, seems a little on the light side.

What happened to the other child? Isn’t that a form of kidnapping?

And what about the other family?

Attorney Gordon Johnson

Date: 7/20/2009 7:08 AM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean court has ordered a hospital to pay 70 million won ($55,793) in damages to a couple that raised the wrong daughter for 16 years because of a hospital mistake.

Seoul Central District court judge Kim Sung-soo said Monday the court made the ruling earlier this month. He did not give details.

Local media say the couple gave birth to a baby girl at the hospital in 1992. They began suspecting she may not be their daughter because her blood type A did not match theirs.

A DNA test confirmed their suspicions and the hospital acknowledged their mistake last year.

The hospital is refusing to disclose information on their biological daughter citing privacy.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.