Jury decides on damages in case against Bartlett Regional Hospital

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A jury awarded a woman $148,000 in a negligence case against Bartlett Regional Hospital heard Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court.

Julia Hanweck sued the hospital after a 2006 infusion therapy procedure as treatment for a diagnosis of Lyme disease. She claimed as a result of the hospital's negligence, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, along with a fear of doctors and hospitals. She has made more than 100 visits to a psychiatrist in three years.

Patients expect a hospital to do no harm and when the healer hurts then the trust of the patient is betrayed, said Hanweck's attorney Mark Choate during closing arguments Monday.

Bartlett committed a simple error, said the hospital's attorney Tony Scholty. However, that error did not equal a breach of trust, he said.

Hanweck received $113,000 for her medical and psychological expenses and economic loss related to the procedure and its lingering effects on her, She also received $25,000 for her PTSD claims and $10,000 for future emotional loss. Her husband, Robert Fields, received $10,000 for loss of consortium. The couple is now divorced.

"The difficulty here was how to adequately put money to emotional loss," juror Courtney Dawkins said after the trial. "There is nothing that says it is $5 for losing a leg, which is just an example, or the emotional trauma. We weren't deciding fault, we were deciding the dollar amount for negligence."

During his closing argument, Choate asked the jury not to punish the hospital, but asked they also not give it a free pass.

He said he had hoped for a larger damage amount, but also said he and his clients "had a great and fair trial."

"It is a sensitive economic time right now," Choate said. "There has been negative media nation-wide on traumatic and emotional stress claims. I was hoping for much more but emotional losses, and profound losses that affect lives, are hard to determine."

Scholty said he and his clients believed the verdict was fair, and wished Hanweck and Fields well in the future.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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