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Virginia’s Top Jury Award, 2017

Burnett & Williams’ Team Won $7,000,000 in Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Trial.

Attorney Donald S. Culkin, from Burnett & Williams’ Leesburg office, was honored to work with Anthony Russell and Les Bowers of Gentry Locke in Roanoke to win a $7,000,850 jury verdict in a Fairfax County, Virginia wrongful death case last July. It was the largest civil jury verdict in Virginia for 2017. Mr. Culkin, a skilled attorney distinguished in legal circles as a personal Injury lawyer who is also a professional engineer, helped the family of Karen Ebersole recover this award after Ms. Ebersole died because of a mistake made during an elective brain aneurysm repair procedure in 2013.

Ms. Ebersole, a 55-year-old mother of two, had been diagnosed with an aneurysm on a blood vessel in her brain. An aneurysm is a weak point in a blood vessel wall like a thin balloon or a weak spot in an innertube. Though Ms. Ebersole’s aneurysm was not causing any symptoms, it did create a risk of rupture. As it happened, Ms. Ebersole was a long-time employee of an medical practice that performed aneurysm repairs. It was therefore decided that her boss, a interventional neuroradiologist, would perform a balloon remodeling coiling procedure to stabilize the aneurysm. Unfortunately, one of the balloons used to occlude (block) the artery during the procedure overexpanded. This overexpansion caused an artery to rupture, resulting in Ms. Ebersole’s death.

At first, the anesthesiologist was blamed, based on the belief that the rupture occurred because Ms. Ebersole was inadequately sedated, causing her to move during the delicate procedure. A photograph, however, surfaced during the legal proceedings that showed that her head had been secured to the table. Eyewitnesses also cast doubt on the suggestion that patient moved. As a result, the case was amended to bring in the neuroradiologist as a co-defendant. At trial each of the doctors, sometimes implicitly and other times explicitly, blamed the other. After hearing all of the evidence, the jury exonerated the anesthesiologist and held the interventional neuroradiologist responsible. The jury awarded her two children $7,000,850 in damages, almost all of which was to compensate the children for their grief. It was a remarkable sum of money for a case with little evidence of financial loss. The verdict is a testament to the remarkable friend and mother that Ms. Ebersole was to her children. It might also be a product of the jury’s belief that someone should have taken direct responsibility for this tragic loss.

Mr. Culkin served as co-counsel on the case with attorneys Roberts Moore, Tony Russell, and Les Bowers from Gentry Locke in Roanoke. They were assisted on the case by a team of attorneys and paralegals from Gentry Lock and from Burnett & Williams’ Northern Virginia offices in Leesburg, Reston, and Winchester. Over the years, Burnett & Williams has been involved in several record wrongful death cases, and we have always worked to carefully protect the interests of the surviving family. Congratulations to this superb team for an achievement well-earned.