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Jury Awards Man $217M Medical Malpractice Verdict

A Tampa, Fla. jury awarded a man and his family $217 million in damages after he was left brain-damaged and wheelchair-bound by an emergency room physician’s misdiagnosis of stroke symptoms.

The $217 million total is the sum of the $116.7 million in compensatory damages Allan Navarro was awarded Friday, and the $100.1 million in punitive damages he was just awarded Tuesday.

The Navarro family said they will donate all punitive damages to charities to help people with brain and spinal cord injuries.

“This isn’t about money, this was about the quest for justice,” said Ed Bilbau, Allan Navarro’s brother-in-law.

Navarro, obviously emotional, was propped up in his electric wheelchair when he mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

Navarro, 50, once played pro basketball in the Philippines, but is now confined to a wheelchair because Tampa University Community Hospital ER physicians misdiagnosed his stroke symptoms in August of 2000, his attorneys said.

Navarro admitted himself to the ER and complained of dizziness, headache, double vision, and nausea. He also told the nurse he had a family history of stroke. However, the physician diagnosed him with sinusitis and sent him home with a prescription for painkillers, according to his attorneys.

Navarro went back to the ER the next morning with more serious symptoms. By that afternoon, he needed surgery to reduce the swelling of his brain. He had been hospitalized for a month when he entered into a coma that would last approximately three months.

The Navarro family sued doctor Michael P. Austin, and two physicians’ groups who were contracted to perform ER service. The lawsuit did not name the hospital.

Austin admitted during the trial that the man who initially performed Navarro’s physical evaluation was an unlicensed physician’s assistant.

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