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Family gets $340,000 bill after losing medical malpractice suit

5:32 AM, Aug 9, 2013   |    comments
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BOULDER -A family has been ordered to pay a hospital's $340,000 legal fees after losing a lengthy medical malpractice lawsuit, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Among the hospital's attorneys' fees, the costs include desserts, dinners and room service charges for expert witnesses and defendants.

The case is a reminder of the legal consequences plaintiffs can face when they file a lawsuit and lose, said 9News Legal Analyst Scott Robinson. "You're gambling on an outcome that is uncertain," Robinson said.

"We didn't actually believe that we would lose, let alone somebody going after a family with a severely disabled child," said Stacy Warden, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son, Noah. "I wanted to have faith people had more compassion than that."

During his birth four years ago, Noah lost oxygen while in the womb. Complications during delivery caused permanent brain damage, according to his parents. Noah will need constant medical care for the rest of his life, his mother said.

"We didn't really receive an explanation. It was just that he didn't breathe or have a heart rate for 13 minutes. No one really told us what happened," Stacy Warden said.

Warden and her husband filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in 2010. The Wardens claimed hospital staff, including a doctor and two nurses, didn't act quickly enough when danger signs indicated Noah was losing oxygen while in the womb.

After a four-week long trial, a jury sided with Good Samaritan and the Wardens lost their case.

The law firm representing the hospital then filed a "bill of cost," seeking to recover legal fees from the Wardens. A judge signed off on the majority of the costs, ordering the Wardens responsible for the $340,000.

Some of the expenses the Wardens will have to cover:

  • Coffee, snacks, and small food items like ice cream and frozen yogurt for witnesses and defendants 
  • Dinners and room service fees, including one witness's expenses that totaled $999.06
  • Transportation expenses, including a car service and airline fees for a witness. 

Attorneys for the hospital originally included a $250 fine after one of the nurses named in the lawsuit was caught smoking in a hotel room. That charge was eventually removed from the bill of cost after the Wardens' attorneys objected to the fine.

9News Legal Analyst Scott Robinson calls the Wardens' case an example of what could happen when someone loses an expensive medical malpractice lawsuit.

"The law gives the prevailing party, the party that wins, the right to get their out-of-pocket costs from you," Robinson said.

9Wants to Know asked a spokesperson for Good Samaritan twice if it wanted to offer perspective and comment about the Warden's legal fees. A spokesperson for the hospital declined both times to provide comment.

"Knowing what I know now, I would still fight for Noah," Stacy Warden said when asked if the lawsuit was worth the effort. "He's absolutely worth it. I wouldn't discourage somebody from doing the same. I just want them to be aware the same thing could happen to them."

The Wardens told 9Wants to Know they now expect to file bankruptcy.

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola? Call him at 303-871-1425 or e-mail him

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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