$4.3M Judgment: Court rules on malpractice lawsuit

HOUGHTON — Damages for a former Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital patient who was found to have suffered negligent care were set at more than $4.3 million in a Houghton County Circuit Court judgment issued Thursday.

Julie Harris was working as a nurse for Aspirus in 2012 when she was prescribed an antibiotic that damaged her inner ear and kidneys.

Harris has been unable to return to work. In a court filing in February, the plaintiffs said Harris has suffered cognitive defects that prevent her from living independently.

The suit named Aspirus and Harris’ physician, Bonnie Hafeman, as defendants.

In December 2017, a Houghton County jury found Hafeman had been professionally negligent, while Aspirus had been negligent in not training pharmacists and setting proper pharmacy policies.

After receiving an infection, Harris had been prescribed tobramcyin, which is used to treat bacterial infections.

Recommendations were for patients on the drug to be checked every three or four days. Instead, Harris’s attorneys said in court filings, her kidneys were checked twice during two weeks in the hospital, and never during the six-week outpatient therapy.

Judge Charles Goodman set damages at $4,313,722, which includes past damages and interest of $982,088, future earnings capacity of $1,580,588 and future medical expenses of $20,84.989, with offsets of about $330,000, including long term and Social Security disability.

Attorneys for Harris did not respond to a request for comment by press time Friday.

Aspirus representatives declined to comment until they had reviewed the court judgment.