What if you went into a hospital for routine surgery and emerged needing a heart transplant? What if the cause of that calamitous outcome - a malfunctioning monitor that burned your heart during surgery - had been known to be defective for at least six years, but the manufacturer told no one? And what if after 11 weeks of being kept alive by a mechanical heart and undergoing a human transplant, the drugs given you caused blood cancer?
You, at the least, sue somebody. That's what the unfortunate Paramjit Singh of Mount Vernon did after medical care left him, at one point, dead, and, after he was resuscitated, dying faster. As a result, a Snohomish County jury awarded him $40.1 million from the heart device maker, California-based Edwards Lifesciences. And today, the Washington State Court of Appeals upheld the award, settling a jurisdictional dispute over punitive damages. Noting Edwards' silence about its faulty product, the court ruled that, "Even though Washington has a strong policy against punitive damages, it has no interest in protecting companies that commit fraud." Singh's cancer, by the way, is in remission, but he lives with severe medical complications.