Appellate court OKs $10M award in wrongful death suit against Laser Spine Institute

A Pennsylvania appeals court rejected arguments that a $10 million verdict in a patient death lawsuit against the now defunct Laser Spine Institute was so excessive that it required a new trial.

Five details:

1. The case was brought to the Pennsylvania Superior Court after a lower court ruled that the $10 million award was disproportionately large when compared to awards plaintiffs in the state had won over the deaths of loved ones, according to court documents.

2. The lawsuit alleged that Tampa, Fla.-based Laser Spine Institute discharged the patient in question when she had a significant amount of Dilaudid, an anesthetic, in her system. The patient died hours later with postoperative instructions to take additional pain medicine.

3. A jury initially awarded the patient's estate $20 million — $10 million for wrongful death and $10 million under the Survival Act. A judge revoked the $10 million award under the Survival Act, and Laser Spine Institute appealed the wrongful death award.

4. In April 2020, an appellate court determined the $10 million award was excessive and vacated it.

5. In a Sept. 30 ruling that affirmed the $10 million award, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the award amount was "not against the weight of the evidence" and "determining how much a relationship is worth to survivors is a determination best suited for the collective life experience and impartial community viewpoint of a jury."

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