24-year-old Jim Walker was hospitalized for pneumonia. As his condition worsened, he was placed on a TriDyne II Critical Care Therapy System Bed manufactured by KCI USA Inc. The bed was designed with 12 air cushions and came with a four-cushion sleeve, which was intended to hold the four cushions together under the patient’s buttocks.
Hospital staff discovered that Walker had developed a deep-tissue pressure sore on his lower back within nine days of being on the bed. The ulcer then led to osteomyelitis in his coccyx (tailbone), requiring removal of the bone. Walker now suffers from extreme pain whenever he sits for more than a few minutes.
Walker sued KCI, alleging defective design and marketing of the bed in that the design and assembly instructions allowed for the four-cushion sleeve to be placed over the wrong area of the bed or left off the bed completely. This caused Walker to slide through the cushions, landing on a hard bed frame.
The plaintiff also alleged that there were no warnings about what could happen if the sleeve was not properly positioned on the bed.
Finally, the plaintiff alleged that KCI failed to adequately train its agent and co-defendant, CPS Medical, Inc., on how to properly assemble the bed. Evidence showed that CPS had assembled and delivered the bed to the hospital with the four-cushion sleeve either completely missing or placed over the wrong area of the cushions. The absence of the sleeve over the seat-area cushions allowed the cushions to shift and separate under Walker’s weight, the plaintiff asserted, causing his buttocks to contact the bed’s metal frame.
The plaintiff also offered evidence that KCI had received numerous reports that patients were sliding in between the cushions when the cushions were not held together by a sleeve.
The plaintiff’s expert testified that his tests confirmed the results of in-house testing by KCI’s own engineer, which showed that the cushions would separate under 14 pounds of weight without a sleeve holding them together.
The plaintiff also presented testimony from both former and current KCI employees that the company could have eliminated the cushion-separation and sleeve-misplacement problems by using an already existing, 10-cushion sleeve that was available for a similar KCI bed at a cost of about $40 per bed, but that the company did not take action because of “business reasons.”
The plaintiff did not claim medical expenses or lost earnings.
The defendant denied that the bed was defective and contended that the plaintiff’s expert testing was flawed. The defense also argued that the bed did not cause Walker’s pressure ulcer. According to KCI, the ulcer was unavoidable, developed before Walker was placed on the bed, and deteriorated even with the best of care because of Walker’s critical health condition.
The jury found for Walker on the negligent training and defective design and marketing claims. It awarded $1 million, including $250,000 each for past physical impairment, future physical impairment, past pain and suffering and mental anguish, and future pain and suffering and mental anguish.
KCI has filed a motion for judgment N.O.V., which stands for the Latin phrase which translates to “notwithstanding the verdict.” The person who files this motion is essentially saying to the judge that, although the jury ruled one way, he would like for the judge to rule in favor of the other party (the party who initially lost) when the judge believes the judgment is not reasonably supported by the facts and/or the law.
Do you think this is a fair verdict for Walker? He is left with a permanent pain in his buttocks and cannot sit for more than a few minutes. Feel free to comment on this blog post. You can contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys for more information at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).