Ross Feller Casey won a landmark $6 million verdict Tuesday in Mercer County, New Jersey on behalf of the family of a 20-year-old Trenton woman who died as a result of medical negligence on the part of paramedics days after giving birth to her son.
It is believed to be the only reported verdict against an advanced life support provider in New Jersey and one of the state’s largest death case verdicts.
The case involves Toniquea Rivers who was discharged from the hospital in January 2012 after giving birth to her son, Zion Mikel Howlen Rivers. Three days later, Rivers collapsed at her parents’ home. She was taken to St. Francis Medical Center, where it was discovered that paramedics had incorrectly placed her endotracheal tube. She died of respiratory and cardiac arrest.
Over the course of the three week trial in Mercer County, Ross Feller Casey attorney Joshua Van Naarden convinced the jury that Rivers died because Capital Health Systems allowed an untrained, unskilled student to intubate her and to monitor her on the way to the hospital during which the tube became dislodged — a fact that went unnoticed.
During the trial, Van Naarden had to overcome New Jersey’s restrictive legal tenant of “qualified immunity,” which provides advanced life providers such as paramedics extra protection against negligence claims. To win the verdict, Van Naarden had to prove the providers failed to act in good faith.
The jury deliberated for about seven hours on Tuesday before reaching its verdict — $6,008,404 against Capital Health Systems. The verdict includes $2 million for Zion Mikel Howlen Rivers for the loss of his mother’s services, companionship and guidance.
“Obviously we were happy with the verdict. It represents what I believe to be the only verdict against an advanced life support paramedic in the state of New Jersey,” Van Naarden told The Trentonian newspaper (read the story).
Law360 called the verdict "NJ's First For EMT Misconduct."