Navy veteran awarded $21.5M after being ‘medically abandoned’ by VA in state’s largest personal injury judgement

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Navy Veteran Michael Farley of Bennington now suffers from ‘locked-in’ syndrome, which is depicted in the video footage below.

CONCORD, NH – A New Hampshire Navy veteran and his wife were awarded $21.5 million in medical malpractice damages after a US Federal Court judge determined Michael Farley’s massive stroke was the result of two physicians failing to properly diagnose and treat his condition.

It is the largest individual personal-injury judgement in New Hampshire history.

“Mr. Farley lay trapped inside his paralyzed body, lucid and mentally alive, but he could not communicate that to his caregivers and family — who were in his hospital room discussing end-of-life scenarios,” wrote U.S. District Court Justice Landya McCaffrey, who handed down the following conclusion April 3 in the 123-page judgement:

The clerk of the court is instructed to enter judgment against the United States in favor of Mrs. Farley, on behalf of Mr. Farley, in the amount of $21,468,710.62, and in favor of Mrs. Farley, individually, in the amount of $100,000.00. The judgment shall be paid in a lump sum. The portion of the lump sum payment to Mr. Farley that is devoted to Mr. Farley’s medical care ($13,368,710.62) shall be placed into a trust for the benefit of Mr. Farley. The parties are ordered to meet and confer, and to file, on or before April 22, 2015, a proposed order setting up the terms of such a trust. The goal of such trust shall be to maximize the likelihood that the medical care award will be spent solely on Mr. Farley’s medical care during the remainder of his life and in a manner that maximizes his physical and mental wellbeing. Should the parties fail to file a proposed order that meets this goal, the court will appoint, on an expedited basis, an expert to advise the court on trust law so that the court can design a trust instrument that best protects Mr. Farley’s interests.

 

Michael Farley and his wife, Ja
Michael Farley and his wife, Jeanice.

Farley, 60, sought treatment from the VA Hospital in Manchester in 2010 after experiencing partial blindness and headaches. Six weeks later he suffered a massive stroke that left him with “locked-in syndrome,” leaving him fully conscious and able to feel pain but with minimal control of his body. He now communicates through a tedious process of using subtle movements of his eyes and head (see the video above).

Named in the suit were treating physicians Dr. Gary Lamphere and Dr. Daniel Lombardi, who McCaffrey said failed to properly diagnose or treat Farley, and failed to prescribe Coumadin, which according to expert testimony, was the obvious course of treatment, given his symptoms.

A statement issued by the VA following the decision said they are committed to providing “quality, safe and effective health care” for former service members.

“We take seriously any issue that occurs at any of our health care facilities across the country and work hard to improve care for all veterans,” the statement read in part.

McCaffrey determined that the VA discharged Farley without proper follow-up care after he went to an urgent-care center in Manchester exhibiting symptoms of a previous stroke. Based on expert testimony, Farley’s doctors at the Manchester VA did not adhere to this standard of care, failed to provide him with an adequate diagnostic evaluation, and as a result Farley was “medically abandoned” by his doctors.

Wrote McCaffrey:

“It is a basic principle of medicine that a patient who has suffered a stroke is generally at an elevated risk of suffering a second stroke. Therefore, doctors who are treating stroke patients must be cognizant of this risk, and they must take steps to prevent a second stroke from occurring. As such, the established standard of care requires that a stroke patient undergo a thorough diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause  of his stroke, and it requires that the patient be prescribed certain medication to treat the underlying condition that caused the stroke to occur.

Unfortunately, Mr. Farley’s doctors at the Manchester VA did not adhere to this standard of care.

They failed to provide him with an adequate diagnostic evaluation, and as a result, they carelessly prescribed him the wrong medication. In the words of one of the expert witnesses, Mr. Farley was “medically abandoned” by his doctors.

Approximately six weeks after his initial visit to the Manchester VA, Mr. Farley suffered a second stroke. This second stroke was massive, and it left Mr. Farley with “locked-in” syndrome, meaning that he remains fully conscious, but has no voluntary muscle movement other than the very limited ability to move his eyes and his head.

Now, Mr. Farley’s wife, Jeanice Farley, has brought suit on his behalf under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671 et al. The court held a four-day bench trial from October 21 to October 24, 2014. After considering the trial testimony and the record evidence, it is the finding of this court that two of Mr. Farley’s doctors at the Manchester VA committed medical malpractice and are legally responsible for failing to prevent Mr. Farley’s second stroke from occurring.”

The previous highest personal-injury award in New Hampshire was $21.06 million in a 2012 pharmaceutical case that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately overturned.

You can review the entire judgement here, with details of Farley’s medical treatment and outcomes.

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About Carol Robidoux 5216 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.