Forty-year-old Carrie Dejongh of Hull died after having a reaction to dye used for a routine CT scan in June of 2015. Her family sued saying the doctor failed to give her the drug ephenephrine that would have saved her life. Lawyer Nick Rowley of Decorah represented the family and says he was surprised to win such an overwhelming verdict.
“Because these are difficult cases, and to have the jury come back and give the exact dollar amount, every penny that we had asked for, every penny we told the jury we believed the case was worth — it is a surprise,” Rowley says. It is the first malpractice verdict in the county and Rowley says it can be tough to convince a jury.
“You just hope that a jury is going to do the right thing. So this case, we knew in our hearts that we were right, but the trial was difficult,” Rowley explains. “The defense fought everything tooth and nail. They had three expert witnesses who were coming up with every excuse under the sun for what this doctor and hospital did and failed to do.”
Rowley says the case centered on Doctor Roy Slice’s failure to give her the drug — which is commonly given to kids with what is known as an “eppy pen” for allergic reactions or bee stings. “She went in, she had the reaction within two minutes and the doctor only gave her Benadryl, which you give for an itchiness and a rash,” according toe Rowley. “The doctor did not give her Epinephrine even though she had lost consciousness and had what the experts believe was a seizure.”
Rowley says there is still the possibility of appeal of the verdict in favor of Dejongh’s husband and four children. He believes his side would also win an appeal. “An appeal in this case would be absolutely frivolous, because our judge worked so hard to make sure that both sides had an absolutely level playing field,” Rowley says. The amount of the verdict is a record, but Rowley says it is reasonable given the history of such cases.
“If you look at the verdicts throughout the country — it is not too much. And if verdicts are capped, then what happens is medical malpractice errors and deaths as a result of medical malpractice and negligence skyrocket,” Rowley says. A law was nearly passed in Iowa that would have capped damages at $250,000. Rowley says that would have been an injustice to this family.
“People who say there should be caps haven’t sat on juries. People who say there should be caps are miseducated by insurance company propagandists and lobbyists,” according to Rowley. “Politicians who say there should be caps…the words are coming out of their mouth after they got money from insurance companies — that’s it.” Rowley says our system is set up so juries and not lawmakers or insurance companies decide the awards in these cases, and that is the way it should be.