On August 10, 2012, Audrey Appleyard underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in her knee. The surgery was performed properly and uneventfully and Ms. Appleyard, then 59 years old, was discharged home that evening. A week later, though, she presented to the emergency rom at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie complaining of pain, redness and purulent drainage from her surgical site.

She was diagnosed with a post-operative infection (later determined to be Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA), admitted and treated with Vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic with significant potential for toxicity.

Unfortunately, while still admitted, Ms. Appleyard developed kidney damage that she claimed was due to improper monitoring and failing to immediately act on abnormal bloodwork on August 26, 2012.

In the ensuing medical malpractice lawsuit against her infectious disease doctor and a physician’s assistant for her orthopedic surgeon, the jury upheld plaintiff’s claim finding that the physician’s assistant was responsible for the delayed treatment following receipt of the results of the blood tests he ordered.

The jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $3,000,000 (all past – seven weeks).

In Appleyard v. Tigges (1st Dept. 2023), the appellate court affirmed the liability verdict but reduced the pain and suffering damages award to $500,000.

Here are the injury details:

  • acute kidney failure
  • dialysis – which required the insertion of a large catheter line into her neck – for three straight days
  • additional five days in hospital with blood transfusions
  • emotional shock, fear of permanent kidney damage and fear of imminent death

Defendants argued that the damages award was “utterly excessive” and “astounding” in view of the conceded facts that plaintiff’s kidney function resumed after the three dialysis sessions and that her kidney function returned to normal within three months of her hospital admission.

Inside Information:

  • In his closing argument, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award $3,000,000 and they did just that.
  • Before trial, plaintiff settled with Vassar Brothers Hospital and its corporate owner for the sum of $225,000.
  • Before the case was submitted to the jury, plaintiff withdrew her claim that she’d suffered permanent renal injury and the agreed-upon verdict sheet asked the jury to award pain and suffering damages, if any, only for the seven week period until she was advised her kidney function had returned to normal.