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Johnson and Johnson Obtain Defense Verdict for Hospital in HIV Transplant Case – Plaintiff Sought $45 Million

October 7, 2012

On November 16, 2011, firm president, William V. Johnson, obtained a defense verdict in favor of the University of Chicago Medical Center following a two-week jury trial in which damages in excess of $45 million were sought. The lawsuit arose out of allegations that proper informed consent was not obtained by a transplant surgeon prior to a 2007 kidney transplant surgery where in the plaintiff was later found to have contracted HIV and Hepatitis C that was transmitted from the deceased donor. Plaintiff was one of our four individuals in the Chicago metropolitan area to have contracted HIV from transplants of organs from this deceased donor. These transmissions were the first to have occurred in the U.S. since 1986, and the case garnered national publicity.

At trial, plaintiff argued that the hospital’s transplant surgeon failed to inform the plaintiff that the donor kidney was characterized by the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) as “high-risk” due to the donor’s history of homosexuality and that, had plaintiff been properly informed, she would not have accepted this organ and thus would not have contracted HIV and Hepatitis C.

Mr. Johnson argued that the standard of care at the time of this transplant did not require transplant surgeons to inform transplant recipients regarding organs characterized as “high-risk” by the CDC because the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C from a sero-negative donor had not occurred in the modern era of HIV testing and with over 400,000 transplants. After this occurrence, the standard of care was changed to require the documentation of a specific informed consent relative to an organ recipient’s acceptance of a CDC-designated “high risk organ.” Moreover, the defense argued that the transplant nurse involved in the case told the patient that the donor was a homosexual, although this was not documented anywhere in the medical record. Experts testified on behalf of the defense from Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, and Harvard University School of Medicine. After two hours of deliberations, the jury returned a defense verdict. A.M. v. UCMC, Court No. 08 L 12783 (Hon. Judge Thomas L. Hogan, presiding)

Mr. Johnson was assisted at trial by shareholder, Matthew L. Johnson.

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