A splenectomy at a very young age to resolve a digestive tract disorder left a Miramar, Florida (FL), girl defenseless against most bacterial and viral infections because the spleen continually filters infectious agents from a person’s blood. While standard and extremely safe vaccines existed to provide the protection her body lacked, a medication mistake at a hospital meant she was still susceptible to life-threatening diseases. She did get sick, and treatment of her illness required the amputation of both her arms and legs.

The story could well have ended there — badly. Fortunately, the girl’s mother pursued a medical malpractice case against the hospital and doctors responsible for the child’s botched health care and, in early January 2012, won a $12.6 million jury verdict against the¬†University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and a physician. The jurors found that the responsible parties had administered an expired vaccine that was likely to have lost its effectiveness. Because Florida has laws permitting findings of contributory negligence, however, the amount of the medical malpractice award will be reduced by 40 percent. The plaintiffs are also expected to appeal.

The case illustrates two important principles. The first is that health care providers have high duties to provide safe, effective medications and other treatments to patients. When those duties are not met for any reason, such as when an out-of-date or incorrect medication is administered, the doctors and health care facilities whose mistakes harmed a patient can and should be held accountable.

The second lesson is that malpractice and medication error suits can be difficult to pursue and take years to resolve. If you believe you or a family member has been harmed due to medical mistakes or negligence, you should definitely contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options. You should also be sure to only hire an attorney who is willing to spend the time and deploy the expertise needed to achieve the best outcome for you and your loved ones.