DeKalb family awarded $17.5 million after doctor held liable for teen's brain injuries

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A jury awarded a DeKalb County family more than $17 million after it found a local doctor and a physician's assistant liable for causing a teen's brain injuries.

A spokesperson from Grady Hospital said that they are appealing the decision and were only trying to save the young man's life.

When Sheriod Merritt was 19, he was hit by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting as he was leaving a Walmart in Lovejoy.

"He said, 'I can't believe I just got shot in the face.' Other than that, he was fine," said Angela Merritt, the victim's mother.

The bullet went through his cheek. Merritt was taken to Grady where his parents said doctors told him he'd be OK but needed surgery.

"He (the doctor) explained when he woke up we could take him home. But that didn't happen," said the victim's father, Patrick Merritt.

"We went back the next day and we found that Sherrod was in a coma, non-responsive," said Angela Merritt, the victim's mother.

Sheriod Merritt's parents say they never got an answer from doctors as to what happened during the surgery, which
left their son with severe brain injuries. Merritt can no longer walk, and can barely talk.

When the case went to trial, the Merritt's attorney told a jury that an anesthesiologist from Emory University Hospital and a physician's assistant from Grady Hospital didn't follow the proper procedure when Merritt was coming out of surgery. The attorneys contend that something went wrong with his breathing tube that was preventable.

According to the civil complaint, Merritt went without oxygen for seven to eight minutes, which caused detrimental brain damage.

"The jury believed what the record stated the defendants (the doctor and physician's assistant) didn't follow their own plan, the anesthesiologists didn't follow their own plan," said attorney Jane Lamberti Sams, of the Cochran Firm.

The jury found the doctor, the physician's assistant, Grady Hospital and Emory Hospital liable, requiring them to pay $17.5 million.

"I really can't give you a total that would make up for what we lost," said Angela Merritt,

A spokesperson for Grady Hospital paints a different picture of what happened that day.

"Sheriod Merritt was rushed to Grady from Lovejoy, Ga., after he sustained a gunshot wound to the face. Upon admission, it was determined that Mr. Merritt needed surgery to stabilize his condition. Following surgery, Mr. Merritt emerged violently from anesthesia and began fighting with the physicians and other medical providers, and ultimately pulled out his breathing tube. Grady medical personnel acted swiftly to save Mr. Merritt's life. We are disappointed in the jury's verdict and will pursue all available appeal options," Denise Simpson, a spokesperson for Grady Health - System, told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman.

Emory University Hospital says they have no comment on this case.



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