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Joe and Pat Cullan, M.D., J.D.: Cullan & Cullan wins biggest medical malpractice verdict in KC history

Apr 5, 2022

Cullan & Cullan earned a $25.4 million verdict, the largest ever for a medical malpractice case in the Kansas City area, according to the Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service.

Joe Cullan, Pat Cullan and Ryan Terril of Kansas City-based Cullan & Cullan represented Kylie Harris and her mother, Rachel Harris, of Independence in a case that went to trial in Jackson County Circuit Court. The jury reached a verdict on March 30.

According to the lawsuit, Rachel Harris went into labor approximately four years ago and was receiving care under the direction of Dr. Kelly Sandri at Truman Medical Center-Lakewood, now known as University Health Lakewood Medical Center.

During labor, a student doctor under Sandri’s supervision administered a medication called Pitocin that is used to accelerate labor. However, an overdose was given that led to a loss of oxygen to the baby’s brain and resulted in cerebral palsy. The machine monitoring the drug was recording overdose levels for six hours, which should have alerted providers to stop administering the drug, according to the lawsuit.

“The hospital has multiple policies and procedure guidelines in place whether you’re using this particular medication because whether it’s used improperly, it’s known to cause catastrophic problems,” said Pat Cullan, a physician attorney and named partner at Cullan & Cullan. “The policies basically say whether the monitoring equipment shows X, Y and Z, you need to shut it off because you’re overdosing the patient. We proved Dr. Sandri didn’t know what was normal and what was abnormal on the monitoring equipment.”

During the four years since Kylie Harris was born, she has needed 24-hour care and has been to 184 physician and therapy visits. She is unable to communicate and is being taught to use an adaptive communication device.

The verdict awarded $18.97 million for ongoing medical care and damages, along with $5 million for past and future pain, suffering and disfigurement. The case was filedmultiple in November 2018.

“What we’re most proud of with this verdict is that it guarantees this child will be taken care of and will be safe long after her mother is gone,” Pat Cullan said. “She has a normal life expectancy, so she could live well into her 80s, and it’s satisfying to know she’ll be cared for her entire life.”

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