Victim Awarded $8.2 Million After Doctor’s Delayed Decision Leads to Life-Threatening Bowel Complications

LIBERTY, Mo. – A woman in Clay County, Missouri has been awarded over $8.2 million in a medical malpractice case. The woman, Kim Steffen, alleged that a doctor’s delayed decision to send her to surgery resulted in the loss of a significant portion of her bowels and brought her close to death.

Steffen underwent surgery on her lower back at North Kansas City Hospital in 2016. Later that night, her daughter discovered her unconscious in the bathroom. She was immediately taken to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed her with severe abdominal pain.

As Steffen’s condition deteriorated, she was transferred to the ICU and diagnosed with possible mesenteric ischemia. This condition involves a dying bowel that can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. However, Steffen’s lawsuit claimed that Dr. Thomas Reardon delayed treatment despite clear signs and blood tests indicating that her bowel was worsening.

Approximately 30 hours after her admission to the ER, Steffen’s blood pressure dropped dramatically. She was rushed into the operating room, where surgeons discovered nearly six feet of dead bowel that needed to be removed. After spending more than a month in the hospital recovering, Steffen now relies on lifelong total parenteral nutrition as she can no longer absorb nutrition from regular food.

Following a nine-day trial, the jury held Dr. Reardon and his employer, Meritas Health Corporation, 100 percent responsible. Another defendant, Laura Dunn, a hospitalist who had ordered Steffen to the ICU, was cleared of liability.

Representing Steffen, attorney Brian McCallister of the McCallister Law Firm expressed gratitude to the jury for the verdict, which he considers the largest medical malpractice award against Meritas. McCallister remarked, “We worked for six years to bring her justice. The jury heard Kim. The jury protected Kim. Justice is not easy, and it seems like all we ever hear about is ‘frivolous lawsuits’ against doctors. This was not one of them.”

The jury’s verdict included $1 million in noneconomic damages, although McCallister expects this amount to be reduced post-trial. Tad Eckenrode, the attorney for the defendants, argued that Steffen’s short-gut syndrome was not a result of her medical care but rather due to an underlying disease that was not fixable through surgery. He posited that the surgeons had to wait to determine if her bowel would recover or not before proceeding with the operation.

Despite differing viewpoints, the fact remains that this case highlights the complexities of medical malpractice and the impacts it can have on individuals. As the legal process unfolded, Steffen fought for justice, ultimately finding some solace through the jury’s decision.