Jaw patient mistakenly given brain surgery: Family wins $21 million in court
A jury awarded the family of an 81-year-old Belleville woman $21 million this week in a lawsuit against Oakwood Hospital. The family claimed the hospital mistakenly operated on her brain in January 2012 when she just needed a simple procedure on her jaw.
Bimla Nayyar never recovered from the surgery and died 60 days later.
Oakwood Hospital is not admitting any wrongdoing and said it will appeal Wednesday’s verdict in Wayne County Circuit Court.
In a statement, Oakwood said, “We’re very concerned about how the details of this case have been portrayed.” Paula Rivera-Kerr, spokeswoman for Oakwood Healthcare, said she could not give further comment.
Oakwood Hospital is part of Oakwood Healthcare and the newly formed Beaumont Health system of southeast Michigan.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, representing Nayyar’s family, said in an interview Thursday that he could not recall a worse mix-up and initial cover-up by a hospital.
“In 37 years of practice, this is the most shocking abuse I have ever seen,” Fieger said.
Nayyar had been admitted to Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn in January 2012 for a procedure to treat her bilateral jaw displacement. She was already in precarious health and recovering from a heart attack she had suffered in October.
But after mixing up her CT scan results with those of another patient, hospital staff thought that Nayyar had bleeding in her brain and needed immediate surgery, according to the family’s lawsuit.
She was wheeled into an operating room, the lawsuit said, where five holes were drilled into her head and the right side of her skull was sawed out and replaced.
“They poked around in her brain, couldn’t find anything and closed her up,” Fieger said.
Afterward, a doctor told Nayyar’s family that they found no skull fracture or brain bleeding and that there must have been a mix-up in the radiology records, the lawsuit says. The hospital did not disclose to the family the full extent of their error until those details emerged at trial, Fieger said.
In a sworn affidavit, Oakwood Hospital’s chief quality and patient safety officer described how hospital staff determined that the CT scan, which they thought had been done on Nayyar, was actually done on a different patient.
However, the patient safety officer, Sara Atwell, said this mix-up wasn’t the result of a failure on Oakwood’s part to develop and follow proper procedures.
Nayyar never recovered from surgery and lingered on life support for 60 days. She died in hospice care on March 11, 2012, once she was taken off a ventilator.