Trial Guides wishes to congratulate our author, Nick Rowley, as well as his co-counsel team, Roxanne Conlin and Ben Novotny, for their recent $27 million verdict in Dudley v. Iowa Physicians Clinic. This was a medical malpractice case in which a physician assistant failed to diagnose the plaintiff’s rare and serious brain infection, resulting in neurological damage.
Not only was the verdict a staggering 108 times the pretrial settlement offer ($250,000), but it also exceeded the plaintiff's own request of $25 million.
On February 17, 2017, Joseph Dudley went to an urgent care clinic with extreme disorientation and a fever in excess of 103 degrees. He had an abnormally high heart rate and tachypnea (unusually rapid and shallow breathing). The attending physician assistant diagnosed him with the flu, and prescribed him flu medication. Unable to walk due to his dizziness, Joseph had to be placed in a wheelchair to leave the clinic.
Less than three days later, Joseph was admitted to the emergency room where a doctor finally gave him the correct diagnosis: bacterial meningitis, an infection of the membranes that protect the spinal cord and brain. He spent over a week in the ICU, after which he was later transferred to the inpatient unit. He was finally discharged on March 28, 2017, nearly six weeks after his urgent care visit.
Joseph suffered three strokes as a result of his infection and permanently lost hearing in his right ear. He has extensive nerve damage in his right leg, so much so that he can no longer walk in a straight line. It took six months for him to relearn how to walk. He also underwent weeks of speech therapy and had to relearn to feed and bathe himself. He also has mood swings and deals with paranoia, according to his wife. The infection left him with permanent brain damage at just 53 years old.
“Physician’s assistants shouldn’t be running clinics on their own without any supervising physician,” Rowley said. “This shouldn’t happen in Iowa, but it is happening in Iowa and because of it, people are getting hurt and people are dying.”
The five-day jury trial ran November 15–21, 2022, in the Polk County Courthouse (5th District Court of Iowa).
While the defense claimed that the treatment was consistent with the standard of care, Rowley argued that the defendant’s failure to test for the flu was not in keeping with these guidelines. “The proof was in the pudding,” explains Rowley. “If it was the flu, where was it? It showed up nowhere. This wasn’t a virus.”
Joseph’s wife, Sarah, gave a persuasive statement on the stand. She testified that she had accompanied her husband to urgent care, noting his extreme distress and severe disorientation. Due to this disorientation, he became physically combative during a standard nasal swab procedure. Sarah also testified that the physician assistant accused her husband of coming down off of drugs.
“I had faith in them. I believed them,” Sarah Dudley told the Des Moines Register. “They’re doctors. They’re supposed to help people. I would never think at an urgent care clinic we would be treated this way.” Rowley describes her testimony as “compelling.”
The Polk County jury awarded the plaintiff a $27 million verdict in damages: $12 million for future loss of full mind and body, $10 million for future pain and suffering based on his life expectancy, $2.5 million for past loss of body and mind function, and $2.5 million for past pain and suffering.
“This is a fair and just verdict for a man who has severe, permanent brain damage and who is one of tens of thousands of medical malpractice victims that have cases pending in this country,” says Rowley.
Trial Guides Titles in Action
Nick Rowley is the author or coauthor of several Trial Guides books and On Demand webinars:
In this passionate and deeply personal treatise, Nick Rowley and coauthor Steven Halteman, a jury consultant and trial strategist, candidly share their Trial by Human method, an approach that brings brutal honesty and humanity into the courtroom.
Voir Dire and Opening Statement
Voir Dire & Opening Statement presents annotated excerpts of successful voir dire transcripts and opening statements to teach you the tools to win decisively. Find insights and strategies for successfully selecting the best jury for your client’s case, practical strategies for understanding small group dynamics and juror body language, and time-tested techniques for creating and delivering a winning opening statement.