Paralyzed Minnesota Mechanic Awarded $9.1M in Malpractice Verdict

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

One of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in recent Minnesota history was awarded last month to a former auto mechanic who suffered spinal cord damage and paralysis in a 2012 surgery.

Joseph Lakoskey received $9.1 million in the Hennepin County jury award after his attorney argued that an anesthesiologist left him dangerously dehydrated before surgery to repair a perforated bowel at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.

"Joe Lakoskey wants nothing more than to have his life and ability to walk back," Brandon Thompson, an attorney with the Robins Kaplan firm, said in a statement. "This verdict will provide him with the resources he needs to live as independent a life as possible."

Lakoskey, 51, went to North Memorial with flu-like symptoms and received fluids for dehydration while doctors found his injury and recommended surgery. The problem, his attorneys argued, was halting treatment of dehydration while starting him on anesthesia an hour before surgery -- a double whammy that caused his blood pressure to drop and his spinal cord to receive inadequate blood flow.

Attorneys for Anesthesiology P.A., the private practice that provides anesthesia services at the hospital, denied that was the cause of Lakoskey's injury. A call to the lead attorney was not returned, so it is unclear if the doctors' group will appeal.

The National Practitioner Data Bank lists only two larger awards since 1990 involving licensed Minnesota practitioners -- a $22 million settlement for inadequate monitoring by a nurse in 2000, and an $11 million settlement involving a catastrophic birth injury to a baby. The federal database, however, misses some cases because of reporting loopholes.

The Lakoskey case was unique in that the award came from a jury verdict; the top 50 awards in the databank were all out-of-court settlements.

"There are a lot of things that money actually can do for somebody who has a disability like Joe has," Thompson said. "I think that's one of the reasons why the jurors really felt good about giving the compensation that they did."

After losing the use of his legs, Lakoskey tried to keep working. But he eventually sold the mechanic business he had built up in Brooklyn Park on the strength of a famous $7 oil change.

Lakoskey said that intensive therapy through the Courage Center's ABLE program helped him gain strength and mobility in his legs -- to the point he could use a walker to cross a 50-foot platform in a couple of minutes. But then grant and insurance funding ran out. He has tried to maintain his progress by swimming and exercising with an Airdyne bike bolted perpendicular to the wall at his Minneapolis home.

Now he hopes money from the lawsuit will allow him to replace his broken-down wheelchair and resume therapy.

"I'm hoping it will enable me to get into the ABLE program and get some therapy and make life easier," he said. "Just get back on track again."