A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday ordered a Washington hospital and a doctor to pay $6 million to a Northwest Washington woman who suffered cardiac arrest and permanent brain damage during an operation in 1980.
The verdict, believed by observers to be the largest medical malpractice award ever handed down by an area jury, was assessed against Sibley Memorial Hospital and Jae Koo Kim, an anesthesiologist, in favor of Carol Lee Lally. Lally, who underwent surgery at the hospital in March 1980, remains there in a comatose condition. Much of the award will go for her continuing medical expenses, according to her attorney, George W. Shadoan.
According to court documents, Lally, 38, a saleswoman at a Washington clothing store and the mother of two young children, entered the hospital with abdominal pain and fever, and it was determined that she had an ovarian abcess, for which surgery was scheduled.
Lally, through her attorney, contended that the hospital staff prepared her inadequately for surgery and that Dr. Kim failed to ensure that she received an adequate supply of oxygen during the operation. That lack of oxygen, Shadoan argued during the three-week trial, caused her heart to stop, which in turn led to irreversible brain damage.
Solomon Margolis, her court-appointed conservator, said in an interview that before the operation, Lally wrote poetry in her spare time. He estimated that the current cost of caring for Lally could total $50,000 a year, and said that those costs are escalating rapidly.