SPRINGFIELD, Mo.–More than a year after a Springfield woman won a $28 million malpractice lawsuit against Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities, she has yet to receive any money because Mercy has appealed the verdict.
Now, the woman and the hospital are taking the case to the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday for a judge to hear arguments on both sides.
26-year-old Emilee Williams sued Mercy in July of 2015 for failing to initially diagnose her with Wilson’s Disease-a rare inherited disorder that causes copper to accumulate in your liver, brain, and other vital organs.
21 of the 28 million dollars was awarded for Williams’ future medical expenses.
Mercy wants to pay that amount over several decades, however Williams wants the money in a lump sum.
Emilee Williams was like most college students in their early twenties-active and full of life. She even played soccer in high school.
“My sister is an extremely engaging and bubbly person, she’s always the positive one in our family,” says Alaina Williams, Emilee’s sister.
So in the fall of 2012 when Emilee started experiencing anxiety and depression, her family knew something was wrong.
“It was interfering with classes, we really didn’t know what was going on. She had started talking about suicide and things like that and so we went to a doctor,” says Williams.
Emilee went to Mercy for care where doctors told her she only had anxiety and depression.
“Even though her hand was trembling, which is a neurological symptom, it has nothing to do with anxiety and depression,” says Williams.
Over the next few months, Emilee’s symptoms got worse. She had trouble with smiling, talking, writing, seeing, and cutting up her food. All the while, doctors insisted on only prescribing her medications for anxiety and depression until August of 2013 when her mother insisted she have an MRI taken.
“Within 15 minutes of getting the MRI, they called and said ‘there’s something going on, there’s significant brain damage.’ They saw the “panda face” is what they call it, ‘we think this is Wilson’s Disease’ ,” says Williams.
It was a diagnosis that came several months too late and has dominated the past five years of Emilee and her family’s life.
“She still has to have care, she needs people to drive her everywhere,” says Williams.
Needing 24/7 care is one of the reasons why Emilee sued and won a nearly $29 million lawsuit against Mercy with $21 million of it for future medical expenses. She hasn’t received one penny from the suit because of Mercy’s appeal.
“Instead of paying this young lady now a lump sum, Mercy’s wanting to pay it over time, which the Tort Reform Law provides for,” says Jay Kirksey, an attorney not related to the case.
Kirksey explains how Tort Reform is a law that essentially protects hospitals instead of patients in cases of malpractice. Because of Tort Reform, Mercy Hospital is requesting to pay Emilee $21 million over 58 years at only a 1.2% interest rate.
“The problem with that number one, that money is not going to be there over time and number two, it’s going to be insufficient over time to take care of all her health care needs,” says Kirksey.
Another issue on appeal because of Tort Reform, is that Mercy doesn’t want to pay post judgment interest- an amount of money paid while appeals are pending.
“It’s really terrifying to think that we are not going to be able to have the funds to provide for her in those moments,” says Williams.
“If it’s you or me or any citizen in this state, we have to pay immediately upon a judgment and we have to pay interest if we don’t pay immediately, but no that doesn’t apply to the hospital,” says Kirksey.
The appeals process is a long battle Emilee’s prepared to fight.
“My sister’s biggest thing, her number one goal in life is to never have anybody go through what she’s gone through, never, never,” says Williams.
According to Emilee’s attorneys, Mercy also wants a new trial in part because of what they say were vague jury instructions during the original trial.
Mercy didn’t want to go on camera for this story, but says in a statement:
“Emilee remains in our prayers as she battles this hereditary disease. Mercy believes the care we provided was appropriate and we continue to see this through the appeals process.”
There will be a Wilson’s Disease awareness walk on September 29th from 11 to 3 at Sequiota Park to raise money for the disease.