State judgments top $4.2 million in Iowa's fiscal 2013

The bulk of the settlements involved claims against employees at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

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DES MOINES – State judgments topped $4.25 million last fiscal year for settlements paid to resolve claims and disputes caused by workplace misconduct, employee errors or other damages involving government operations, officials said Tuesday.

The bulk of the fiscal 2013 settlements – nearly $3.5 million – involved claims against employees at regent universities with University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics the target of several negligence allegations.

Joseph Barry, the state’s risk manager within the Iowa Department of Management, said the fiscal 2013 judgments and settlements paid by the state were less than $1 million when the regent costs were subtracted, which he said seemed like a reasonable amount for an enterprise as large as state government.

“We didn’t have any major payouts last year which brought it back down to normal numbers I guess, which is nice,” said Barry, who noted that settlements related to the state’s film tax credit fiasco pushed the payout above $13 million in fiscal 2012. The fiscal 2012 payout was the second highest in more than a decade – topped only by fiscal 2008 when TouchPlay settlements made up a major share of the record $23.5 million in judgments the state paid in that year.

The largest settlement in fiscal 2013, which ended June 30, was a $3,875,000 judgment – split evenly between the university and the State Appeal Board – stemming from an August 2009 lawsuit alleging that a child suffered injuries at birth due to the alleged negligence of UI physicians and employees.

The university also agreed to pay 70 percent of a $1.4 million settlement stemming from a woman who suffered a lumbar puncture that was negligently ordered and performed by hospital employees resulting in permanent injury.

A separate $250,000 payment was the ninth of 10 installments from a claim filed in 1999, said Joseph Barry, the state’s risk manager within the Iowa Department of Management.

Also, a $150,000 settlement was paid due to an alleged wheelchair seating evaluation that was improperly performed by a University Hospitals’ therapist resulting in personal injuries to a woman, while the State Appeal Board paid two-thirds and UI physicians the remainder to settle a lawsuit alleging negligence in the manner of response to post-surgery concerns and alleged personal injuries which arose from the alleged negligence.

The state paid $200,000 of a $1.2 million settlement stemming from a woman riding a bicycle on recreational trail located on the UI campus who encountered mud on trail and fell, allegedly sustained major injuries -- including brain injury requiring extensive hospital stay, multiple surgeries, prolonged rehab resulting in permanent impairment, state records indicated.

A separate $25,000 award settled a lawsuit alleging medical negligence resulting in nerve damage to the wrist of a UIHC patient after several failed attempts to place an IV.

In other settlements, $50,000 was awarded in a lawsuit alleging the University of Northern Iowa was negligent in responding to a 2004 sexual assault, while the State Appeal Board agreed to pay a $70,000 settlement in alleged negligence by Iowa School for the Deaf in providing supervision resulting in two students being able to engage in a sexual encounter in the dormitory, according to state records.

Also, Iowa taxpayers paid more than $448,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit that an 81-year-old Clive doctor brought after working just eight days at the Woodward Resource Center for the disabled. The settlement covered lost earnings, damages for past and future emotional distress, and attorney fees.

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