August 27, 2001-University of Virginia Medical Center to Pay $ 1.5 Million for Wrongful Death
The family of a Franklin County man who suffered a brain injury last year at
the University of Virginia Medical Center and subsequently died received a $ 1.5
million wrongful death settlement Friday, the maximum civil penalty allowed
under Virginia law for medical malpractice.
David Allen Hudson, 23, died last summer, 13 weeks after undergoing surgery
at the hospital to treat severe burn injuries. His mother and father, Mark
Hudson and Donna Wilkes of Franklin County, and two sisters, Tiffany Hudson and
Tabitha Wedemeyer, filed a medical malpractice claim against the university
alleging wrongful death.
UVa, in conjunction with the state, which owns the university and its medical
center, agreed to pay the $ 1.5 million. In accepting the settlement, the family
agreed never to sue. Judge Leslie Osborn of the Mecklenburg County Circuit Court approved the
settlement Friday, which transferred $ 120,000 to the university to cover
medical expenses Hudson still owed, leaving $ 1.38 million to the family. Their
Danville lawyer, Jim Daniel, received $ 326,314 of that sum.
Hudson's family "alleged that the hospital didn't take good care of him,"
said Frank "Bunky" Miller, the attorney who represented the state and
university. Miller said the university does not admit or deny the family's
allegation, but acknowledged in court papers that Hudson died due to "injuries"
he suffered while in the hospital.
"We paid for his death," Miller said.
Hudson was burned over 40 percent of his body on May 8, 2000, while working
at Roanoke Co-op Franklin County Branch in Wirtz, a Southern States Cooperative
store formerly called Montgomery Farm Supply. He was in the process of removing
diesel fuel that had been mistakenly put in a fork lift and refilling the lift
with gasoline when the fuel caught fire. He was flown to Carilion Roanoke
Memorial Hospital and then transferred to the UVa medical center, which has a
After surgery the next day to attach temporary skin grafts, Hudson stopped
breathing for at least several minutes in the anesthesia recovery room,
suffering brain damage due to a lack of oxygen, according to medical records.
Although he was resuscitated, Hudson never regained consciousness and lapsed
into a vegetative state. Assured he would never recover, the family had his
feeding tube disconnected.
At his family's request, he was transferred to Carilion Franklin Memorial
Hospital in Rocky Mount, where he died July 27, 2000, of a bacterial infection,
complicated by his brain injury and the burns, according to his death
certificate and Rocky Mount physician Lyne Aigner, who took up Hudson's care
after he left UVa.
The family said it was told that while Hudson was in the anesthesia recovery
room, he was not hooked to vital-signs monitors that would have alerted medical
personnel when he stopped breathing. Medical experts who analyzed Hudson's
hospital records for the family's lawyer estimated he was without oxygen for
eight to 15 minutes.
Daniel, the family lawyer, attributed Hudson's brain injury to "some type of
human error -- just failing to check on David while he was in the recovery
Legal experts said UVa's payment of the full amount means university
officials were convinced the hospital was legally responsible for Hudson's brain
"Based on my experience, it is extremely unlikely that the University of
Virginia would pay the most that could be awarded in court voluntarily unless
well-credentialed medical experts had told them that the case was a case of
malpractice," said Thomas Williamson, a Richmond medical malpractice, personal
injury and product liability lawyer not involved in the case.
Payment of the malpractice cap without a trial "usually means there is not
much doubt about the negligence," said Michael Krauss, a law professor at the
George Mason University School of Law in Arlington.
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