CHARLOTTE — A Charlotte mother is challenging North Carolina's cap on medical malpractice lawsuits after her attorneys say a botched surgery left her without hands and feet.
In a lawsuit filed this week in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, lawyers for Adrienne Harris say the mother of three was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy in July 2015.
Her doctors recommended surgery to remove her fallopian tube.
Attorney Charles Monnett says Harris should only have needed an overnight stay at CMC-Main for the relatively routine surgery.
"During her surgery, there was an injury to her bowel that went undetected, undiagnosed, and unrepaired," Monnett said.
The surgery left a hole in her small intestine allowed the contents to leak into her abdomen causing sepsis. The lawsuit alleges doctors didn't catch the mistake for two days.
"It just snowballed. One mistake after the other," Monnett said.
She eventually underwent another surgery to repair the hole which resulted in removal of portions of her small bowel and colon.
The lawsuit says Harris remained deathly ill in the ICU and required additional surgeries in the weeks and months to follow.
Organ damage and poor condition brought on by the sepsis caused gangrene to her hands and feet.
Eventually she required below the knee amputations of both legs and trans-radial amputations of both hands.
"No one can imagine what it would be like to suddenly wake up one day with no hands and no feet," Monnett said.
Harris also won't be able to properly digest food by mouth for the rest of her life.
Monnett argues that because her injuries are so severe, she should be allowed to claim non-economic damages above the $500,000 cap set in place by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011.
The lawsuit makes a constitutional challenge to the cap calling it an "arbitrary and capricious deprivation of the constitutional rights of an injured individual to recover non-economic damages."
House Speak Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger are named in the suit by statute. The state is now recognized as a defendant to argue in support of the cap on damages.
Monnett said he believes a jury that hears all the evidence should once again be allowed to decide a case and appropriate financial compensation.
"She's lost her ability to live a normal life. She's lost the ability to care for her children," Monnett said. "Why should the politicians in Raleigh be allowed to tell her what that is worth."
The negligence lawsuit names Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority - also known as Carolinas Healthcare or Atrium Health along with Dr. Lynn C. Pitson, Dr. Kathryn E. Webb and Dr. Tara M. Vick.
The suit says Webb was a resident at the time and performed the surgery under Pitson's supervision. It suggests Webb's inexperience was a factor.
"She would have had limited experience just by the fact that she was a resident," Monnett said.
Carolinas HealthCare told Channel 9 they don't comment on active litigation. Moore and Berger also declined to comment for this report.
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