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Monday a jury in Gwinnett County awarded a plaintiff a five million dollar verdict against the Gwinnett Hospital System for a nursing malpractice.

Plaintiff, Wendy Wyckstandt, 34, returned to the hospital four days after giving birth due to medical complications of postpartum high blood pressure.She collapsed while taking a shower in her hospital room.When her mother entered her room, she found her near lifeless body in the running water. She died a day later; her death caused by drowning.

The nursing staff claimed to have checked on her during the day, but video surveillance proved otherwise.The plaintiff’s attorneys claimed the hospital staff altered records and kept evidence from the plaintiff’s attorneys.Eight years of legal wrangling has finally resulted in a huge verdict award for the plaintiff.The hospital has indicated it will appeal the verdict.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the number of disciplinary actions for nursing malpractice has risen over the last five years.Once a nurse reports for duty, she or he agrees to care for the assigned patients with that degree of skill, care and diligence exercised by competent and careful nurses.The plaintiff in a malpractice action must prove that had that standard of care been followed, then the injury or damage would not have occurred.

Nursing standards of care require the nurse to continually assess the patient after the initial assessment, diagnosis and care plan is put into action.Many legal actions against nurses focus on a failure to monitor or recognize changes in the patient’s condition.

A Google search of hospital deaths similar to the type that Wendy Wyckstandt suffered reveals few, if any, similar cases.Epileptics living in institutional homes and elderly nursing home patients are the few who drown in hospital or hospital-type settings.Not only is this death tragic for its unusual circumstances, but it also defies understanding that anyone could suffer such an accidental death in a setting designed to provide such oversight and care.

Most likely, the amount of the jury award reflects the jury’s indignation that the hospital allowed this to happen, and even still, perhaps tried to cover it up.We do rely on juries to be enraged by gross negligence and lack of honesty by the defendant.Sadly, the plaintiff’s family has had to live with the litigation surrounding this tragic death for eight long years.And if the hospital appeals, which they certainly are likely to do, then this case is still not over for the family.But for the time being, persistence in the face of injustice triumphed.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.

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