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Family Awarded $17.4 Million In Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Oct 22, 2004 | AP

The family of a high-school athlete who died in 1998 after 89 operations has been awarded $17.4 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Interest added to the amount because the Milwaukee County Circuit Court jury's award issued Thursday was higher than a 2000 settlement offer will push the total owed to Sarah Hegarty's family to $26 million, according to its attorney.

The malpractice suit contended her painful ordeal and death were the fault of doctors at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa for misdiagnosing her intestinal problems and giving her inadequate care that led to complications.

She had a twist in her small intestine and, because it wasn't treated in time, the blood supply to her small intestine was shut off, and the organ withered inside her, said the family attorney.

The jury found the emergency-room doctor, Ernest Stremski, liable for one-quarter of the damages and a resident doctor at the hospital, Angela Beauchaine, liable for the rest.

The total includes $3.2 million in medical and burial expenses, $7 million for Hegarty's two years of pain and suffering, $7 million for her parents' coping with the girl's illness during those two years, and a state-capped award of $150,000 to the parents for Hegarty's death.

The jury also found a third Children's Hospital doctor, Jane Balint, negligent in Hegarty's case but decided that Balint played no role in causing the girl's injuries and death.

Hegarty had been a standout three-sport athlete at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, including all-conference honors in soccer and a starting spot on a state championship basketball team, before she fell ill.


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