The family of an Auburn University student, who died after a visit to a local urgent care, was awarded $9 million in a medical malpractice case.
Hope Johnson was a 20-year-old junior at Auburn majoring in computer science when she walked into Auburn Urgent Care on Dec. 11, 2014, after experiencing sharp chest pains. She died two days later from blood clots, according to Leila Watson, one of the Johnson family’s attorneys.
Johnson had visited Auburn Urgent Care two days earlier with similar complaints of chest pain, and the doctor prescribed her an antibiotic and told Johnson to return if she got worse, according to the complaint filed by Johnson’s family.
Watson said that Johnson wasn’t able to ride her bike to class anymore; she had to take the bus in what used to be a short walk home.
Johnson had class finals coming up, Watson said. She was a college student nervous about her grades, yearning to be in good health so she could get closer to graduation, just like everyone else, she said.
Johnson returned to Auburn Urgent Care two days after her initial visit feeling “worsening chest pain and shortness of breath,” according to the court file. Watson said that Johnson’s vital signs were at panic levels.
Inside Auburn Urgent Care, Watson said, was around 90 people — way too many for the sole physician working that day, she added.
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Auburn Urgent Care declined to comment for this story.
It was the physician’s first day, according to the court file, and he was instructed by the medical director to “see patients without any access to the current or past medical records of any patient,” according to the press release.
Johnson’s medical history made it evident that she was at risk for blood clots because Johnson’s mother experienced multiple blood clots in her medical history, according to the court file.
Johnson’s condition was critical, and an ambulance should have been called to take her to East Alabama Medical Center, Watson said.
The physician at Auburn Urgent Care briefly met with Johnson, gave her an inhaler and sent her home, according to the press release.
Johnson died the next day with blood clots in her lungs, according to Watson.
The family chose to take legal action immediately because “they wanted to make sure that this would never happen again to another family,” Watson said.
The Johnson family said the following statement in a press release:
“We are very pleased with the jury decision in the wrongful death case of our precious daughter Hope,” said a statement from the Johnson family. “We continue to feel her absence every day and pray this decision brings about much-needed change.
“Our chief desire is that this case will set a precedent that will prevent this from happening to another family or college student, not just in Lee County, but in Alabama as a whole.”
The verdict is the largest in a Lee County medical-malpractice case, according to the press release, and it was announced on Oct. 11.
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