Family gets $9.4M in Tripler verdict

August 17, 2008

News PhotoU.S. District Judge David Ezra awarded $9.4 million yesterday to the family of a 3-year-old boy who suffered massive brain damage while under the care of Tripler Army Medical Center.

It was described by attorney Rick Fried, who represented Parker Benjamin Kohl, as one of the largest verdicts awarded to a patient against the hospital.

Kohl is the son of Darius and Karen Kohl. The family now lives in Fort Lewis, Wash.

The hospital released a written statement saying, "Tripler Army Medical Center respects the decision made by the U.S. District Court."

Where staff failed

Judge David Ezra detailed some of the failures by Tripler Army Medical Center staff to provide adequate care for Parker Kohl when his condition worsened in May 2004:

» Failure to monitor and respond to Kohl's deteriorating condition

» Failure to reattach Kohl's breathing tube

» Failure to take a blood gas test that would have indicated Kohl's respiratory failure

» Failure to initiate intravenous access

» Failure to wean Kohl off narcotic medication

FULL STORY »

By Rosemarie Bernardo
rbernardo@starbulletin.com

News PhotoThe family of a baby who suffered massive brain damage at Tripler Army Medical Center was awarded $9.4 million in a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital.

The award by U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday was described by attorney Rick Fried, who represented Parker Benjamin Kohl and his family, as one of the largest awarded to a patient based on treatment at the hospital. In October almost $16.5 million was awarded to the family of Izzy Peterson, a 2-year-old boy who suffered severe brain damage after a Tripler doctor mistakenly gave him carbon dioxide instead of oxygen soon after his birth.

The Kohl family, which now lives in Fort Lewis, Wash., is happy and relieved the verdict will help cover costs for daily care for their 3-year-old boy, Fried said yesterday at a news conference.

In 2004, Fried said the then-5-month-old Parker, son of Darius and Karen Kohl, suffered brain damage after Tripler staff failed to monitor his vital signs and to ensure intravenous access before he suffered respiratory failure.

"There was a failure here to have a chain of command where someone who needed help was unable to get it," Fried said. He added that he hopes hospital staff will make improvements to their response system.

News PhotoParker Kohl was born on Dec. 18, 2003, with a pre-existing heart condition. At the time, the Kohl family lived in military housing at Schofield Barracks.

When Kohl was almost 5 months old, he developed a viral disease called "respiratory syncytial virus," or RSV, and was placed on a breathing tube while in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit on May 5, 2004. Doctors removed the tube on May 12 because they thought his health improved.

But his condition worsened, Fried said.

Two and a half hours before Kohl suffered respiratory failure, a nurse noticed his deteriorating condition. She attempted to seek help from doctors but was unsuccessful. His health continued to plummet when he stopped breathing on May 13.

Doctors revived Kohl, but damage to his brain was irreversible. The evidence was clear that had he been reattached to his breathing tube, he would not have suffered respiratory failure that resulted in brain damage, Fried said. "His mental status should have been normal."

Despite his heart condition, he would have been able to live a normal life, he added.

He is now blind and cannot speak or walk. He is tube-fed and had a tracheostomy to help him breathe, Fried said. His IQ level is of a child who is less than a year old.

According to a court document, Ezra concluded the following in how Tripler failed to provide adequate care for Kohl when his condition worsened:

» Failure to re-attach Kohl's breathing tube

» Failure to take a blood gas test that would have indicated Kohl's respiratory failure

» Failure to initiate intravenous access

» Failure to wean Kohl off narcotic medication

» Failure to monitor and respond to Kohl's deteriorating condition based on his vital signs and notes from a nurse

In a written statement, Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland, commander of the Pacific Regional Medical Command at Tripler Army Medical Center, said: "Tripler Army Medical Center respects the decision made by the U.S. District Court.

"Through continued education and training, the staff's commitment to readiness and the needs of those that are served sets the standards for quality, access and efficiency to the best medical care available," Hawley-Bowland said.

Article URL: http://starbulletin.com/2007/08/17/news/story03.html
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