Washington jury doles out $40M to victim of faulty heart monitor

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Jury issues large payment to patient of cardiac surgery gone awry. Source: East Carolina University  

A man and his family from Mount Vernon, Wash., were awarded $40.1 million by a jury in a Snohomish Superior Court (Wash.) after the man’s heart was irreparably burned by a medical device the manufacturer knew for years was defective.

The award included $8.35 million in punitive damages, according the defendant’s law firm, Luvera Law Firm.

Paramjit Singh checked into Providence Everett Medical Center in Everett, Wash., in October 2004 to undergo cardiac bypass surgery when the Vigilance I Monitor, manufactured by Irvine, Calif.-based Edwards Lifesciences malfunctioned, causing a catheter to overheat and searing his heart.

Singh had to undergo a heart transplant because of his injuries and faces medical problems, including a kidney transplant.

The jury also awarded Providence Everett Medical Center $310,000 in damages, because Providence filed suit claiming Edwards’ actions damaged the hospital.

After the incident, Providence arranged for Singh to be transferred to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, where he was put on a mechanical heart device and kept in a chemically induced coma for several weeks until he could receive a heart transplant. Providence paid for all the medical procedures, according to Luvera.

“The 12 men and women of this jury paid close attention to the facts throughout the five- week trial and the punitive damages they awarded today shows that they accepted the challenge of setting a standard for patient safety,” Luvera said.

The jury awarded Singh $24 million, his wife $6 million and their children $750,000, $500,000 and $500,000, respectively.

According to court documents, Edwards first became aware of a software bug in its monitors back in 1998, but ignored internal recommendations to correct the problem, Luvera reported.

In 2002, the software bug caused a similar incident in Japan, but the smoldering catheter had been removed from the patient before overheating. Despite the Japan incident, Luvera reported that Edwards did not warn or advise healthcare professionals to stop using its monitors, court records show. Instead, the company simply began distributing re-designed products in March 2003 that no longer contained the software error, according to the law firm.

The judge allowed the Singhs and Providence to argue for punitive damages, which are typically not permitted in Washington court, since Edwards is based in California, a state that allows for punitive damages.