TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - It won’t replace their loss, but a family in Tuscaloosa is due to receive millions of dollars from the local hospital.
Johnny Terrell Sledge’s family sued the hospital, saying Sledge died because the on-call surgeon failed to show up when Sledge needed them. The jury in this case decided Thursday that the family be awarded $30 million in punitive damages.
On December 27, 2013, Terrell Sledge was struck in the back by a bullet during a shoot-out near Ash Street in West Tuscaloosa.
“So it entered the back, went through his left kidney, went through his abdominal aorta and then landed in his liver. So a pretty significant injury," says attorney Derrick Mills.
Rushed to DHC Regional Medical Center, Mills says Sledge was checked out by an emergency room physician who then contacted the on-call surgeon.
“Trauma surgeon was in an elective procedure meaning not an emergency procedure - a scheduled procedure. He called down to the trauma team and said, ‘Get somebody else, I’m busy,’” Mills said.
Mills says the trauma team reached out to several more doctors but couldn’t reach anyone.
“Terrell is sitting there bleeding to death. Terrell laid in that emergency department for two and a half hours bleeding to death without a general surgeon,” Mills said.
The lawsuit calls out the medical center for not adhering to the plan they had in place when it comes to on-call surgeons. Mills also found out the hospital did not have a backup plan.
“They had an unwritten rule, essentially where the surgeons and the ER physicians apparently would just sort of cover for each other. And that’s not appropriate. You’re supposed to have a rule in place, have a rule that’s enforceable in place,” he said.
The jury alone decided on the $30 million figure. Now, Mills says, the family is getting that closure, not only from the trial, but from the jurors themselves.
“And all the jurors after this case, it was really really heartwarming to me, after the verdict came and hugged this family. It was a pretty emotional moment,” Mills said.
We reached out to DCH for comment and this was their statement: “Because the litigation may continue, we have no comment other than to extend our condolences to the family of the deceased.”