O’Hagan Meyer successfully concluded a two-week trial in Fulton County (Atlanta) state court. The case involved claims of wrongful death, personal injury and punitive damages involving the claimed failure of a medical oxygen regulator. The case revolved around the delayed death of an 18 month old child who was flown to Atlanta on a med-flight in July, 2012 for an emergency procedure at Children’s Hospital. During the 15-minute ambulance ride from Peachtree-Dekalb Airport in Atlanta to Children’s Hospital, the flow of medical oxygen to the portable ventilator stopped and the child went into cardiac arrest. The med-flight team started CPR and managed to get their patient to Children’s Hospital alive.
At the end of the transport, the ambulance crew inspected the main O2 tank and the regulator/gauge assembly. Although the gauge read almost half-full, the 2000 psi tank was empty. Three years later, the young boy died as a result of the hypoxic brain injury, suffered as a result of the cardiac arrest.
The ambulance transport company was named as a defendant in 2013 when the case was initially filed. In 2014, our client, the medical O2 regulator manufacturer, was added as an additional defendant. Three years of discovery against the manufacturer uncovered reams of test reports describing quality control problems with the regulator’s gauge supplied by a Chinese company located in Shanghai. Plaintiffs’ counsel repeatedly told the jury that Chinese gauges were cheaper products which replaced gauges previously supplied by a Georgia company.
In 2017 the ambulance company settled with Plaintiffs for an undisclosed amount.
Throughout the trial, Plaintiffs were represented by 4-5 attorneys and 2-3 assistants from two different firms. Additional counsel camped out in the first two rows. The trial court judge denied all pre-trial motions and every motion in limine.
Our defense team consisted of Evan Burkholder and Lesley Yulkowski, along with local counsel.
What saved the day for Western was the testimony of a former NASA scientist and authority on medical O2 systems. He discovered that the gauge assembly had been bent by the paramedics and repeatedly used by them instead of being removed from service.
Atlanta is known for outlandishly high jury verdicts. During closing, Plaintiffs’ counsel totaled up all their damages, including attorneys’ fees (the judge permitted plaintiffs to add a line on the jury form for attorneys’ fees at the last minute) and requested $55,000,000. After deliberating four hours, the jury returned a verdict, awarding Plaintiffs one percent (1%) of the requested amount. When confronted with the jury’s rejection of their damage request, all of the remaining claims were quickly resolved.
Burkholder heads up the firm’s Detroit office and has over 30 years of trial experience in business and employment litigation, catastrophic injury cases, and product liability matters.