Brain Injuries Caused by Medical Malpractice (Podcast) May 29, 2024.

Brain Injuries Caused by Medical Malpractice (Podcast)

In this podcast, Christopher Mellino talks about brain injuries caused by medical negligence. He explains how they occur, and then, he outlines options and what to expect for people who have been injured due to medical malpractice.

John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher and I'm here today with Christopher Mellino, founding attorney of the Mellino Law Firm, a personal injury law firm in Cleveland, Ohio, with a focus on medical malpractice. Chris has over 40 years of experience in handling medical malpractice cases, has been involved in several landmark cases in Ohio, and has received verdicts against every hospital system in Cleveland. Welcome, Chris.

Christopher Mellino: Hi, John. Thanks for having me on today.

What Types of Malpractice Cause Brain Injuries?

John: Sure. Yeah. So today we're talking about brain injuries caused by medical malpractice. What types of medical care might eventually lead to brain damage in the case of a malpractice case?

Christopher: Well, anytime that there's any kind of loss of oxygen to the brain, usually when the person loses consciousness. So it's happening a lot in the emergency room when patients stop breathing, which doesn't get noticed or takes them too long to intubate the patient again, breathing again, those can cause brain injuries.

A person's heart might stop beating and they fail to recognize signs and symptoms of a heart attack until it's too late, until the patient's heart stops beating. Once the heart stops beating, they're not getting enough of oxygen in the brain, that could cause brain injury. It can happen during anesthesia. So essentially it can happen anywhere in the hospital anytime a patient stops breathing or their heart stops beating.

So like in intensive care units, patients aren't watched closely. Patients can stop breathing or their hearts stop beating, the nurses don't notice it right away. And an adult, if they go three or four minutes without oxygen, the cells in their brain start dying and that's brain injury.

So after three or four minutes, the longer that goes on, the more cells die, the more damage there is. So if, say for example in the ICU, the nurse doesn't notice that the patient stopped breathing for 10 minutes and then it takes them two or three minutes to get the patient intubated and breathing again, that person's gone almost 15 minutes without oxygen. That's going to be a substantial brain injury.

Signs of Brain Injuries

John: So a lot of brain injury symptoms can be kind of subtle and hard to detect. Are there signs that someone should look for to help identify a potential medical malpractice type of brain injury that might've occurred? Versus maybe when somebody's recovering from surgery, they might be a little groggy or a little out of it or something like that at the beginning and it's just part of the normal recovery process. But what are the signs maybe that somebody should look for that there's been some sort of significant damage done?

Christopher: Well, really any kind of unusual behavior. That anesthesia is going to wear off after eight to 12 hours, you're not really going to have any residual anesthesia left. So if you're still having any kind of symptoms, and to your point, a lot of these are subtle. A lot of them might not be noticed, but I mean it's something in your family, any kind of abnormal, strange, any kind of behavior that's not typical for that person.

Even something as simple as they forget certain words or have trouble putting thoughts together. I mean, that's a sign of a brain injury. So yeah, they can be very subtle. So if you notice any kind of changes, definitely worth consulting with the medical malpractice attorney. Because medical technology now can detect brain injuries, even very subtle brain injuries through MRIs, especially special kinds of MRIs. Actually, we have different centers. There's one in Detroit for example, where I don't claim to know all the science involved with the technology, but the doctor up there can detect even very small minor injuries to the brain that resulted from a lack of oxygen.

Damages Caused by Brain Injuries

John: Brain injuries often have lifelong consequences because you're not necessarily going to recover from that or have the brain heal itself to its fullest ability. What types of damages are considered when you're building a case for a brain injury caused by medical malpractice?

Christopher: Yeah, well, brain injury cases, you're exactly right, the brain doesn't heal itself. So once it's injured, the person may be able to compensate in some situations, but in most cases it's going to require future medical care, future medical treatment aids and devices that'll help the person do their normal activities.

So the biggest harm or loss in those cases is the cost of that care. And in those cases, we always consult. Our job as a lawyer is to try to put the person back to their lifestyle as closely as possible. We'll have them engaged in the same activities they were engaged in before the brain injury. So we work with experts in the field to put together a life care plan, which addresses all their future needs, what aids they would need to return to their former lifestyle. And our job would be to obtain whatever that's going to cost, whatever that number is, to obtain that as compensation for our fines so that they could, as close as they can, return to their normal activities in their normal life, their former lifestyle.

What to Expect With Brain Injury Lawsuits

John: Can you walk us through a typical brain injury malpractice case from the time when the person notices that there's a problem and they may be contacting a medical malpractice attorney like yourself, to the point at which hopefully there's a verdict and they're getting damages recovered. What's the whole process of the case there?

Christopher: Well, sure. I mean, first we meet with the clients and their family, find out what happened, find out what the person's life was like before this injury, what it's like now. The next step after that is to get the medical records, and that's a process to get the medical records, get complete medical records.

And in most cases, we need medical records, not just from when the injury happened, but if there were any prior medical conditions, we need to know what those are and any records from any care that's happened as a result of the injuries. After that, we always review the records ourselves. We have an RN on staff here full time, so she goes through the records. I'm not a doctor, I don't have medical training, but I've been doing this for 40 years, so I kind of have a good handle on medical records.

So I look through them and see if I think there's anything that was done wrong or at least suspicious for that, the nurse and I believe there's a reason to go forward then we have to consult with outside medical experts. And having done this for 40 years, we have experts pretty much in every field that we can consult with that we know will be candid with us one way or the other.

If nothing wrong was done, they'll tell us that. If there is something wrong that was done, they'll tell us that too. And then we can't file a case without having an expert sign off, sign an affidavit to say that there was negligence and the negligence caused an injury. We file suit, and then the next step would be to have a question and answer session, which is a deposition. It's called a deposition where we just question all the caregivers involved to find out why they did what they did, why they didn't do what they should have done, and find out what their story is.

Then the other side, the defense will want to talk to our clients as well, find out what their version of the events is. And then after that, the experts for both sides will get deposed. And then we prepare, then we get ready for trial. And basically when we try a case, our approach is we always try to show what should have happened, what safeguards should have been in place to prevent the injury.

Mostly those are hospital policies, protocols, or professional guidelines. Then how those were violated, why the safeguards were ignored, guidelines weren't followed, protocols weren't followed, why what happened happened, and then what the harms and losses to our client have been as a result of the injury and the failure to follow normal protocols and safeguards. Normally, most of our cases do settle. They settle right before trial, but if they don't, we try a lot of cases and get a verdict for our client.

Do Brain Injury Cases Usually Settle or Go to Court?

John: Do you have an estimate on that number of cases that maybe settle before they end up going to trial?

Christopher: In our practice?

John: Yeah. The percentage of cases that end up settling before trial?

Christopher: Well, I mean nationally, 90%, it's a high percentage of cases that go to trial in medical malpractice cases. But in our practice, most of our cases do so because we're selective in the cases that we take, we put all of our resources at the firm, all the people at the firm working on all the cases that we have.

We take very few cases. And generally the determining factor where the case is going to settle is one, if you put in the work and work it up right, it's probably going to settle. But sometimes the defense is just stubborn or they don't have people smart enough on the other side, or they're not willing to admit they made a mistake, those cases go to trial. But most of our cases that we take on result in settling for our clients.

Contact Us at the Mellino Law Firm for Help

John: All right, well that's really great information, Chris. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Christopher: My pleasure, John. Good to talk to you.

John: And for more information, you can visit the Mellino Law Firm website at or call 440-333-3800.