LITTLE ROCK — The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a reduced award of $11 million granted for a Mabelvale couple whose son underwent surgery on the wrong side of his brain at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
The hospital’s insurer, ProAssurance Indemnity, had argued the case should be set back to Pulaski County Circuit Court because the trial judge failed to instruct jurors to determine what percentage of fault was the hospital’s and what percentage was the doctors’.
The family had cross-appealed arguing the original $20 million awarded by a circuit court jury should not have been reduced to $11 million. The judge reduced the award because that was the maximum amount for which the insurance carrier was liable under the hospital’s policy.
In July 2004, Cody Metheny, who was 15, was operated on by doctors trying to cure a seizure disorder. The surgeons initially operated on the left side of the brain and after realizing their mistake performed the correct surgery on the right side, according to Thursday’s high court ruling.
In the unanimous ruling, Justice Donald Corbin said Pulaski County Circuit Judge Ellen Brantley did not err because she did not instruct the jury to determine percentage of fault by the hospital and by the doctors.
"Yet, ProAssurance would have this court hold that the circuit court abused its discretion in rejecting proffered instructions that would have allowed ProAssurance to place the (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) doctors, who were no longer parties to any action by the Methenys, on the verdict form for purposes of allocation of liability," Corbin wrote.
The high court also said that the judge was correct when she reduced the award from $20 million to $11 million.
"Considering the language of the policy and the statute, which limits liability to the extent of coverage in the policy, we cannot say that the circuit court erred in reducing the jury’s award to $11 million," Corbin wrote.