Trenton Woman's estate wins $6M in malpractice suit

Source: The Trentonian
Capital Health lost a medical malpractice lawsuit on Tuesday when a civil trial by jury ordered the health system to pay over $6 million in damages to the estate of a Trenton woman who died as a direct result of paramedic misconduct.
A week after giving birth to a premature baby, 20-year-old Toniquea Rivers collapsed at her parents’ home and received an ambulance transport by Capital Health paramedics who failed to properly intubate her on Feb. 3, 2012. She was taken to Saint Francis Medical Center, where she died after hospital staff discovered the endotracheal tube had been incorrectly placed, according to the civil action complaint that was filed in Mercer County Superior Court on Jan. 29, 2014.
The civil litigation went to a trial by jury this month, and the jurors on Tuesday decided 7-1 that Capital Health failed to act in good faith and must pay over $4 million in damages to the estate of Toniquea Rivers and $2 million to compensate her surviving 5-year-old child, Zion Mikel Howlen Rivers.
To win the case, Van Naarden had to prove by the preponderance of the evidence that the defendants failed to act in good faith. The verdict did not need to be unanimous but required at least seven of the eight jurors to find Capital Health at fault to return a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs.
The jury determined that 85 percent of Toniquea Rivers’ ultimate injury was caused by Capital Health’s “failure to act in good faith” and that the remaining 15 percent was due to her pre-existing condition. She was about 28 weeks pregnant when she gave birth to her son by Caesarean section on Jan. 27, 2012, according to the medical malpractice lawsuit. She died a week later primarily because the paramedics knowingly failed to properly treat her respiratory or cardiac arrest on Feb. 3, 2012.
Rivers was a resident of Trenton. She lived in the city’s Villa Park neighborhood and was employed by Chick-fil-A when she died, according to Van Naarden. She is survived by her toddler son and the boy’s father Larry Howlen.
Zion “is a very healthy 5-year-old boy who is being raised without a mother,” Van Naarden said. “Luckily he has a wonderful family. He has a father who loves him. As a village they are raising this child, but that verdict reflects the reality of the world we live in, which is there is no replacement for a mother.”
Capital Health on Wednesday did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Carolyn M. Bohmueller, an attorney representing Capital Health in the malpractice lawsuit, also did not respond to a message seeking comment for this story.
The health system could appeal the jury’s verdict.

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