Dallas: Indian doc ordered to pay $17.5 mn

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North Dallas, Feb 17: A Dallas County jury awarded David Fitzgerald, who lost all of his limbs to a MRSA infection, $17.5 million in damages in a medical malpractice case.

Judge Jim Jordan ordered Dr Meenakshi S Prabhakar to pay David Fitzgerald after a Dallas County jury found in Fitzgerald's favor in his medical malpractice lawsuit.

Prabhakar treated Fitzgerald in 2003 when he developed an infection following surgery at RHD Medical Center in Farmers Branch.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to some antibiotics. The patient lost his arms and legs due to the MRSA infection.

The jury ruled Fitzgerald should get $17.5 million, but because of caps on medical malpractice cases he cannot collect about $10 million the jury awarded for pain, mental anguish and physical impairment.

Dr Meenakshi S Prabhakar, a Bedford infectious-disease specialist treated the infection in 2003 at RHD Memorial Medical Center In Farmers Branch.

Fitzgerald can collect no more than $250,000 for non economic damages, a limit established in 2003 by the Texas Legislature and applied to all medical malpractice cases. Lost earnings and medical costs, however, can be collected for life.

However, Dr Meenakshi Prabhakar declined to comment Her attorney William H Chamblee said he would appeal the award.

"This jury award is so enormously wrong, and it's based only on absolute sympathy," he said. "I'm sorry that he lost his arms and legs, but nobody is responsible for that."

Meanwhile Fitzgerald's attorney, Linda Turley, said the malpractice caps were a 'tragic unfairness' to her client, who has relied on family members for daily living over the last six years. Fitzgerald, who lives with his brother in East Texas, declined to be interviewed.

"He can't bathe by himself, can't get out of the house by himself and will need assistance for the rest of his life," Turley said.

William H Chamblee, Prabhakar's attorney, said Fitzgerald was treated with eight antibiotics but not the one that treats MRSA, which is a type of hospital-acquired infection that can be deadly if not treated quickly.

Fitzgerald went into septic shock, which caused irreparable damage to his limbs. By the time the infection was diagnosed and treated, gangrene had set in, requiring the removal of both arms below his elbows and both legs below his knees.

"There were no less than seven doctors from seven specialties, all board-certified, who saw this guy over the crucial time period, and nobody knew what it was," Chamblee said of Fitzgerald's infection.

The jury said Prabhaker is 100 percent responsible for what happened to Fitzgerald. However jury agreed the doctor was not guilty of 'gross negligence'.

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