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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Upholds $8.2M Wrongful Death Award

(CN) - A federal judge in Illinois upheld an $8.2 million wrongful death award against the United States and St. Louis University after the 7th Circuit asked that the award be reconsidered.

Ronald Arpin died from complications of an abscess behind his abdomen while under the care of St. Louis University doctors who operated a joint program with the United States at Scott Air Force Base. Arpin's family claimed doctors failed to diagnose and treat the abscess.

Arpin's death devastated his family, court papers state. His wife, Jeannine, was totally dependent on him and couldn't drive. One of his sons says he can no longer attend family dinners because it hurts too much and another son claims he became an alcoholic.

The federal court awarded the money to Arpin's family after finding that St. Louis University and the United States was negligent.

The $8.2 million included $158,000 for medical bills, $2,200 for funeral expenses, $354,000 in lost wages, $750,000 for pain and suffering and $7 million for loss of consortium.

Both defendants appealed the liability judgment and the loss of consortium award before the 7th Circuit, which upheld the federal court's finding of liability but vacated the $7 million loss of consortium award. The circuit sent the case back to federal court, suggesting a ratio approach to calculating the loss of consortium damages.

"So how does a trier of the facts, a decision maker of the damages go about determining damages?" Chief Judge David Herndon wrote. "Can you put a price on all the Sunday dinners now cancelled because no one can bear to get them together?"The Arpins have suffered a devastating loss and this Court has never before seen a case where the loss of a loved one had such a catastrophic impact on the family as noted above," Herndon wrote. "Therefore, given the unique nature of this case as well as the lack of adequate comparative cases, the Court finds that a ratio approach is infeasible."

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