Family awarded $15 million in medical negligence suit

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SEATTLE — A judge awarded a Snoqualmie family $15.2 million dollars after a medical mistake left their young daughter brain damaged.

Mackenzie Briant was a lively child, despite the fact that shortly after birth she received a heart transplant.

It was a condition that left her with some medical complications. So when Mackenzie caught a cold her mom, Elaine, called Children’s Hospital to get specific instructions on treatment. A resident in training from the University of Washington took that call.

The attorney representing the Briant family, Ralph Brindley said, “The way the University is, the resident physician in training takes the call and goes to the pediatric cardiologist who said, ‘No Afrin.’ The resident physician misunderstood and called Mrs. Briant back and said, ‘Give Mackenzie Afrin’.”

It was a seemingly simple miscommunication that had dire consequences.

Elaine Briant gave Mackenzie the over-the-counter decongestant. Shortly afterward, her daughter went into cardiac arrest and the incident left Mackenzie severely brain damaged. Now she struggles with the simplest day-to-day activities.

medical negligenceIn court, Elaine fought back tears when a judge awarded the Snoqualmie family more than $15 million.

“It was kind of a bittersweet moment for me,” Elaine said. “You never know how you’re going to feel in that situation. I just still kind of feel empty.”

The University of Washington will have to pay the judgment, but attorneys for the school maintain their client was not at fault.

“Devastated,” attorney Clarke Johnson said. “We believe strongly — as did the providers at Children’s — that this incident was not related to Afrin.”

In a statement, the University of Washington said, “The UW has implemented techniques such as ‘read backs’ for medication orders… to ensure that everyone involved in a procedure or process demonstrates that he or she understands what has been communicated.”

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  • northwest

    I am very sorry to see this little girl have brain damage. However, I am frustrated that it is so easy in this country to sue hospitals for astronomical amounts of money. We all know that the doctors are not paying for this bill, it is passed on to the people who are paying high premiums for health care. So thank you for being blameful and allowing the rest of the state to pay for this. Doesn't the state have representatives to argue the other side of this, who is to say that Afrin caused caridac arrest and if the mother was so concerned about her daughters, who has a heart replacement, health take her in to the hospital where she probably would have gone into to cardiac arrest anyway, but would of been helped alot sooner and have not have brain damage.

    • bnj

      I'm amazed how ignorant and uncaring people can be. You, northwest, appear to be both. Several points of interest:
      1.) Afrin is not to be given to children under the age of 6. It clearly states so on the box. Doctors know this. The resident should have questioned what he thought he heard, especially when he thought the doctor was ordering a drug against the manufacturer's age limits. In response to your question "who is to say that Afrin caused cardiac arrest", the answer is the medical community and the drug manufacturer. (The child had a cardiac arrest, not a respiratory arrest!)
      2.) The doctors and hospital's malpractice insurance pay toward the settlement. That's why all medical professionals carry it.
      3.) Before the family sees a cent of the money, the state and the insurance companies that have paid for the child's care to date are reimbursed first.
      4.) The money that the family receives, after paying the state, insurance and the attorneys, goes toward the child's care only. It will go into a medical trust that will be closely monitored by a trustee (professional).
      5.) The picture that you see in the article shows what appears to be a happy child. For her and her family go from this to having their world turned completely upside down deserves more than a brief and seemingly insincere comment from you followed by uninformed comments, reflects poorly on you. Your lack of empathy is what's wrong with this world! Try spending some time volunteering at one of the local children's hospitals to see what families in this situation truly so through. Then fall on your knees and thank God for the healthy children in you life.
      Your last comment demonstrates that you are a cold and ignorant person. A heart transplant years earlier does not require a visit to the hospital for a cold. It does suggest a call to the cardiologist on call. Oh wait, that is exactly what the mother did. How could she have possibly have predicted that the information would have resulted in such a devastating situation.

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