Cook County commissioners are set this week to finalize a $6.75 million settlement to a former patient of Stroger Hospital who alleges in a lawsuit that she was left paralyzed because doctors failed to treat a spinal condition.
The pending medical malpractice settlement sailed through the Cook County Board’s Finance Committee Wednesday in a 17-0 vote and now heads to a final floor vote on Thursday. The plaintiff, Zertasha Williams, alleges she has now chronic pain and incontinence and must use a wheelchair because of negligence from the Stroger staff, according to a copy of the suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.
“This is a hollow victory for Zertasha and her family,” Williams’ lawyer Ted McNabola said in a phone interview. “Her life has been devastated by this, and she faces an uncertain future. This settlement will help alleviate some of that uncertainty.”
In addition to her physical disabilities and pain, she has also lost wages and incurred medical expenses, according to the suit.
“As a result of the negligence of Defendant, Plaintiff Williams suffered excruciating pain and mental anguish and is required (continuous) medical care and attention,” the suit says.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which negotiated the settlement, declined to comment.
The lawsuit maintains that if Williams’ spinal condition had been treated earlier, she would not have been left paralyzed. But doctors and nurses failed to take down her medical history, discontinued necessary treatment, did not recognize her symptoms, performed surgery too late and made other errors, the suit alleges.
Williams was first admitted to Stroger, run by Cook County Health, on Aug. 31, 2018, for severe back and leg pain, inability to urinate and other health issues, the suit says. She was still able to bend her knees and move her legs and feet at the time.
An MRI of her spine showed severe spinal damage — but doctors failed to address the findings in time, according to the suit.
On Sept. 4, Williams complained of more pain and weakness in her back and legs, leading to a surgery the next day, according to the suit. “Immediately” following that procedure, Williams noted her legs were paralyzed, the suit says.
The lawsuit names Cook County and Stroger Hospital as defendants. Stroger serves as one of the Chicago area’s largest safety-net hospitals and one of the city’s most visited trauma centers.