Judge awards $5.7 million to veteran in medical negligence case

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, by Lawrence Buser: A construction manager has been awarded $5.7 million in damages by a judge who found that the Memphis Veterans Medical Center was negligent in its treatment of the 64-year-old Vietnam-era combat veteran. Experts in a nonjury trial in June testified that Jouril Howell suffered from a painful colon infection called diverticulitis when he went to the VA emergency room on July 5, 2006, but was sent home without a thorough examination or proper treatment. He was brought back by ambulance three days later when his colon ruptured and led to widespread infection throughout his body. As a result, Howell had to undergo numerous surgeries, lost several toes due to gangrene and suffered other life-altering injuries that left him permanently weakened and in chronic pain. Attorneys for the government argued that Howell overstated his injuries and damages, has filed for bankruptcy five times and also is seeking medical damages from a 2009 automobile accident. The plaintiff asked for $30 million in damages. At the time of his illness, Howell was involved in a project designing homes and planned communities in Africa. His hobbies included martial arts, mountain climbing and flying. U.S. Dist. Court Judge Jon McCalla awarded Howell $5.73 million for medical care, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and lost earning capacity and future wages. “At trial, Mr. Howell’s previous zest for life and his willingness and ability to undertake and overcome serious business challenges were overwhelmingly, and tragically, clear,” McCalla said in his ruling. “Though Plaintiff’s personality may fairly be described as ‘larger than life,’ the Court does not find this to be a reason for discrediting his testimony on his claimed losses, pain, and suffering.”