JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Supreme Court has sided with a plaintiff awarded a $28.9 million medical malpractice judgment against Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities.
In its Jan. 13 opinion, Judge Mary R. Russell held that Greene County Circuit Court Judge Mark Powell's allocation of a portion of the future medical damages at a different interest rate than the interest rate used to compute the present value of the jury's award deprived Emilee Williams of the full value of the jury's verdict and violated her due process rights.
The court also held that Mercy Clinic's April 27 motion to amend the judgment to remove post-judgment interest was not filed within the required 30 days of the judgment's entry.
"The Circuit Court’s judgment is reversed to the extent it deprived Williams of the full value of the jury’s award, violating her due process rights, and to the extent it sustained the untimely April 27 motion to amend striking post-judgment interest," states the opinion.
The case was remanded for entry of a new judgment, and otherwise affirmed.
According to background information in the ruling, Williams, who was 19 when she started seeing a counselor in 2011 for anxiety and depression, ultimately sued Mercy Clinic and Dr. Elene Pilapil, claiming they failed to diagnose and treat her for Wilson's disease - "a rare genetic disorder that causes an excess of copper to slowly accumulate in the vital organs."
While she was seeing a counselor, Williams also saw her primary physician, who ordered lab tests that found that she had elevated liver enzymes and diagnosed her with mononucleosis. In October or November of 2011, she experienced an increase in anxiety and her physician prescribed Prozac. After that, she developed a hand tremor, and was referred to Pilapil, an internist, who concluded Williams did not have a neurological issue. Pilapil found that Williams had anxiety and depression and increased her Prozac dosage.
Her physical condition worsened, but Pilapil continued to diagnose Williams with anxiety and depression, and changed her anti-depressant medications.
Williams had requested an MRI, but was not given one for months after her first request, the ruling states. When she did finally receive an MRI it showed "significant brain trauma appearing to be Wilson's disease."
She was paralyzed from the disease for two-and-a-half years - unable to walk, talk or move and blinked her eyes to communicate. Williams has made significant improvements since her initial diagnosis, the ruling states, but her personality has "changed significantly" and she prone to outbursts and has been unable to be left unsupervised since August 2013.