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Jury awards record $8.5 million after Heartland Regional Medical Center admits fault in man's death

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MARION — A jury this week awarded a record-breaking damage award in Williamson County after Heartland Regional Medical Center admitted fault in a wrongful death lawsuit.

According to a news release from the Clifford Law Firm, the hospital admitted fault Monday, just hours before a civil trial was set to begin.

The suit was filed five years ago after Lowell Williamson died during a voluntary shoulder surgery. According to the release, “Lowell died when a certified registered nurse anesthetist and hospital employees administered a lethal dose of a gas known as Sevoflurane, causing Lowell to become dangerously hypotensive.”

The release also said “the attending anesthesiologist did not respond to the emergency situation for approximately 55 minutes, despite multiple attempts to contact her.” She is reported to have said there was an emergency that kept her from responding to the calls, but according the release, that was never validated.

Because the hospital admitted fault, the jury did not have to decide guilt or innocence, but how much to award the victim’s estate. They decided on a record $8.5 million, nearly $6 million higher than the previous record for the county.

“The jury obviously felt that the plaintiff was terribly wronged by the defendant Heartland Regional Medical Center when it did not properly monitor Lowell Williamson or examine his records prior to or during surgery,” attorney Bradley Cosgrove said after the verdict was rendered.

As to why the hospital waited so long to admit fault, Cosgrove offered up an idea.

“It was a tactical move so the jury didn’t find out what they did,” he said. Cosgrove explained that in Illinois, if a party admits fault, the jury is precluded from hearing a defendant's bad acts.

Cosgrove declined to comment on whether he believed their hearing the acts could have increased the settlement.

Cosgrove said the award will be paid to Williamson’s widow, Madeline Williamson, and his adult daughters, Amber and Elicia.

When reached for comment, Heartland Regional Director of Marketing Herby Voss sent the following statement through email.

“Heartland Regional Medical Center offers our sincere condolences to the Williamson Family. Heartland Regional is committed to providing safe, high-quality care to improve the health of our community, and grateful to be a health care resource for Southern Illinois. It is not our practice, however, to comment on the outcome of litigation.”

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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