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Holding YRMC Accountable: $3M Negligence Verdict in Botched Surgery Case

Posted on November 24, 2023 in

In a recent landmark case, attorneys Chris Jensen and Sean Phelan recovered over a $3 million judgment against the Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) in connection with a 2019 botched lumbar spine surgery. The verdict, one of the largest against YRMC ever, followed a contentious three-week trial. The trial focused on the hospital’s negligence in credentialing a local medical doctor, Whitney James, M.D., who was approved by YRMC as a neurosurgeon but who had completed only 5 years of her 7-year residency program, was never Chief Resident and was not Board-eligible with the American Board of Neurological Surgery, all three of which are requirements of the YRMC Bylaws. The jury verdict required that the jury find that Dr. Jame’s two lumbar surgeries at YRMC and related care were negligent and injury-causing, and would not have occurred without the involvement of YRMC.

As we continue our commitment to justice for our local community, the 3-and-a-half-year Thompson v. Yavapai Regional Medical Center case and trial show the dedication, perseverance, and advocacy ability of our legal team at Jensen Phelan Law Firm. Our mission is to advocate for those affected by medical negligence, holding institutions accountable for lapses in proper procedures. If you or a loved one has experienced harm due to medical malpractice, let us stand by your side. Our experienced legal professionals are ready to discuss your situation and provide guidance on potential courses of action.

Thompson v. Yavapai Regional Medical Center Jury Verdict for $3 Million

On November 21, 2023, a nine-person jury reached a unanimous verdict in favor of Michael and Sarah Thompson, awarding them $3,000,000 in damages following an intensely contested three-week trial at the Yavapai County Superior Court. The plaintiffs alleged that YRMC failed to follow reasonable care, due diligence, and its own Bylaws in granting clinical neurosurgery privileges to Dr. Whitney James, M.D., a self-styled “neurosurgeon” with an incomplete residency at the University of Arizona Medical School who also lacks board eligibility.

Credentialing Negligence

Dr. James, a Yale-educated doctor, entered a residency program at the University of Arizona in 2012 but left before completing all requirements, leaving her ineligible for board certification. Despite being aware of her incomplete residency, YRMC granted her full clinical privileges, allowing her to start performing neurosurgery even before YRMC’s official grant of privileges.

Prescott resident Michael Thompson sought treatment at YRMC in May 2019, where he was referred to Dr. James. Despite his favorable impression of her as a caring and professional doctor, his two surgical procedures by Dr. James at YRMC led to complications, including cerebro-spinal fluid leaks, excruciating headaches, some neurological symptoms and loss of bladder function and control requiring permanent self-catheterization. He has permanent mobility issues and an inability to work full-time.

Legal Hurdles

Our legal team faced challenges due to the legal secrecy surrounding YRMC’s credentialing process. The information needed to establish liability about YRMC’s negligent credentialing of Dr. James was shielded from everyone through YRMC’s lawful and unceasing asserting of its statutory privilege rights. Attorney Jensen stated creative legal workarounds were necessary (e.g. obtaining subpoenaed records from the U. of Arizona Medical School, the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the American Medical Association, plus many depositions, etc.) to obtain crucial information about Dr. James’ education, training, and the circumstances surrounding her departure from the residency program plus YRMC’s credentialing process based on what evidence YRMC could not have obtained because it did not exist.

Jury Verdict

The jury, in reaching a verdict against YRMC, found specific instances of negligence, including deficiencies in the performing surgeon, YRMC’s multiple failures to follow its Bylaws in credentialing, and actions that caused injury to Mr. Thompson. The monetary award accounted for Michael’s physical pain, emotional anxiety and suffering, economic medical costs, loss of income, future care expenses, and the impact of Mr. Thompson’s incapacitating injuries on Sarah and their family.

Advocating for Victims of Medical Malpractice

This case highlights the importance of rigorous credentialing processes in healthcare institutions and the potential consequences of deviating from established standards. We successfully navigated legal challenges to hold YRMC accountable for negligence in credentialing, securing justice for our client. Jensen Phelan does not normally represent medical malpractice cases but made an exception in this case for the good of the community. The jury verdict serves as a reminder of the critical role personal injury attorneys can play in advocating for victims of medical malpractice and other types of negligence because sometimes our local lawyers are the only remaining option for those seeking justice for harm, losses, and damages.

Did You Suffer an Injury Due to Medical Malpractice? Contact Us for a Free Consultation

Take action now to safeguard your rights and seek the justice you deserve. If you or someone you care about suffered an injury due to medical negligence, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation, and let our dedicated legal team guide you through the path to resolution.

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