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PA Jury Awards Teacher $12.7M after Tonsillectomy Causes Brain Damage

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A Pennsylvania jury awarded $12.7 million to a woman who was left brain damaged after doctors removed her breathing tube too quickly after a tonsillectomy.

Plaintiff Sherrell Clayton, a 33-year-old special education teacher, walks with a severe foot drag, because she can't lift her right leg. She also has decreased function in her right arm and issues with balance, according to her attorney, Frank Rothermel of Bernhardt Rothermel Siegel.

The defendants are anesthesiologist Joseph V. Somers, who was held 70 percent liable, and nurse Lori Chambers was held 30 percent liable, as well as Main Line Hospital and United Anesthesia Services.

Clayton had offered to settle the case for $10 million resolution. The jury award included $5.85 million was for past and future lost earnings and past and future noneconomic damages. The nearly $7 million in damages awarded as part of her life care plan through 2057.

The defense argued that Clayton did not suffer any anoxic brain injury, but rather a reaction to the anesthesia.

But Rothermel pointed to an admission form for Magee Rehabilitation that states she was being admitted for treatment of anoxic brain injury. Main Line Hospital, doing business as Lankenau Hospital, sent Clayton for rehab.

Clayton's alleged the surgeon, anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist didn't perform the proper tests to decide whether the anesthesia had worn off to the point where it was safe to remove her breathing tube. After they removed the tube, they did not monitor Clayton's oxygen levels for 16 minutes, when her oxygen level was 81 percent, which, according to Rothermel, is "dangerously low."

Clayton was reintubated, but remained "inappropriately oriented and unresponsive" to questions and commands. She had abnormal, seizure-like movements, according to the court documents.

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