A Jefferson County jury today returned a verdict in favor of a 26 year old disabled woman who died unnecessarily in 2012 after St. Vincent’s Hospital East failed to call her critical labs directly to her physician, as its own written policy required in 2012.
The jury awarded $500,000 in the medical malpractice case against St. Vincent’s East. The case for the victim was tried by attorneys David Marsh, Rip Andrews and Ben Ford of the law firm Marsh, Rickard & Bryan.
Aleshia Neal was severely mentally handicapped and suffered from a seizure disorder. She lived in a group home in Birmingham. Months before her death, Aleshia had lab work done at St. Vincent’s East as an outpatient. The results showed high electrolyte sodium levels. Those critical lab values were never communicated to Aleshia’s main doctor so they went untreated. The same lab work was repeated two months later, and the results again showed critically high electrolyte sodium levels. In fact, the sodium level, in particular, had worsened. These second critical lab values didn’t reach Aleshia’s main doctor either, so they, too, went unaddressed. Aleshia died shortly after that from complications of an electrolyte imbalance and her blood showed elevated sodium and chloride levels.
Evidence at trial showed that St. Vincent’s East, in order to charge for the labs it performed, was required by industry groups to have a written policy in place for communicating critical labs. St Vincent’s East’s policies required that outpatient labs be communicated to the physician. Simply put, the lab missed two opportunities to save Aleshia’s life. Instead, the lab called the critical values to the group home headquarters, violating its policy and an unnecessary intermediary to the chain of communication. The case against the group home was resolved prior to trial.
“When someone’s life is on the line, rules matter”, says Rip Andrews. “I hope this verdict will serve as a reminder to all of us that in life and death situations, we have safety rules for a reason, and they should be followed”.