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ICU patient, wife awarded $7.75 million

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque jury has awarded a nearly $8 million verdict to a New Mexico couple in a case in which a 44-year-old man suffered serious pressure ulcers while in Presbyterian Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Michael Webb and his wife, Tammy Lee Bruyere, filed the lawsuit in 2012 in connection to injuries Webb suffered while he was in the ICU because of complications from a knee surgery in December 2011.

He had alleged that, while unconscious, he spent days in the ICU without being moved enough and, as a result, developed Stage 4 pressure ulcers on his backside, a condition in which tissue damage stretches deep into the muscle or bone. The injury has continued to cause him pain and the need for medical care, said Randi McGinn, one of the couple’s attorneys.

The jury heard about a week’s worth of testimony and deliberated for about a day before returning the verdict Thursday, which found that Presbyterian was negligent and that the negligence caused Webb’s injuries. Second Judicial District Judge Valerie Huling presided over the case.

The jury awarded Webb $4 million in compensatory damages, Bruyere $1.5 million in compensatory damages. The couple was also awarded $2.25 million in punitive damages.

“The one place a helpless patient should be safe from pressure ulcers is the intensive care unit in the second-largest hospital in the state,” McGinn said Friday. “When you are paying for intensive care, you should get intensive care.”

Attorneys at the Rodey Law Firm, who represented Presbyterian, were out of town and couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

“As a not-for-profit organization with deep roots in this community, we have confidence in the safe, quality care provided at Presbyterian Hospital. In this case, we are confident that our clinicians cared for the patient appropriately,” Kerri Dufault, a spokeswoman for Presbyterian, said in a prepared statement.

“We appreciate the efforts of the jury in this case, but respectfully disagree with the decision. We are currently evaluating how we will proceed.”

McGinn said Webb at the time he was injured worked on refrigeration for Smith’s grocery stores around the state and made about $130,000 a year. But she said Webb can no longer work, and his wife has to provide him with ongoing medical care.

She said her key witnesses at trial were Webb and Bruyere and a nursing expert who said Webb’s treatment at Presbyterian was not in line with standards of care and the hospital’s policies.

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