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Jury Awards Woman $30 Million After Throat Catches Fire

Fire left her unable to talk or breathe on her own.

Published: January 29, 2015

A 55-year-old woman who can no longer speak or breathe on her own after her endotracheal tube caught fire during surgery to remove polyps from her vocal cords has been awarded $30 million in her malpractice lawsuit, a jury in Seattle ruled last week after a 6-week trial.

The patient, Becky Anderson, who was hospitalized for 3 months after the fire, sued ear, nose & throat specialist Donald R. Paugh, MD, FACS, anesthesiologist Linda K. Schatz, MD, and their employers, Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley Medical Center and Wenatchee Anesthesia Associates, as well as Central Washington Hospital, also in Wenatchee, and Medtronic, the manufacturer of the endotracheal tube, saying that the company's design of the tube was faulty and should have included a "double cuff" that, Ms. Anderson alleged, would have prevented the oxygen in the tube from igniting when exposed to the laser beam.

Ms. Anderson settled for $12 million with the hospital, and a jury awarder her another $17.1 million, comprised of $9.45 million from Dr. Schatz and her employer and $7.65 million from Dr. Paugh and his employer. The jury found that Medtronic wasn't responsible for the fire and didn't make the company pay anything.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Anderson blamed her doctors for giving her pure oxygen rather than room air or a lower oxygen concentration.

Jim Burger

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