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Medical Negligence Victim Awarded $15 Million: 'I Died That Day'

By Lauren DiSpirito

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) - A Douglas County jury has found an ambulatory surgical center negligent and awarded its patient millions of dollars in damages after she was paralyzed following a medical procedure.

In 2013, Robbin and Ed Smith visited The Surgery Center at Lone Tree to treat Robbin's back pain. The couple, who live in Castle Rock, had plans to travel from Colorado to Missouri for their son's upcoming wedding.

Robbin and Ed Smith
Robbin and Ed Smith (credit: CBS)

Doctors recommended an epidural steroid injection, a procedure Robbin had had before. This time, doctors used a different drug, Kenalog, one that according to the Smith's attorney Bruce Braley contained a warning it could cause serious injury or death if administered by epidural injection.

The Smiths tell CBS4 they were not told Kenalog was being used in her injection or warned of its potential effects. They say the drug caused a stroke in Robbin's spine. Minutes later, she was paralyzed.

"Our life has changed forever," Robbin Smith said. "I died that day, I completely died that day."

Robbin and Ed Smith
Robbin and Ed Smith (credit: CBS)

Robbin spent more than two months in inpatient rehabilitation at Craig Hospital. She learned she would never walk again.

Unable to attend her son's wedding while in rehab, Robbing watched the event using FaceTime and an iPad Ed carried down the aisle and with him throughout the reception.

(credit: CBS)

Braley says Kenalog's maker received FDA approval to add the warning to its label not to use the drug for epidural use in 2011, two years before it was administered to Robbin. The Smiths say the surgery center should have known not to use Kenalog for epidural injections.

"I don't think there's anyone that I know of that's going to say, 'yeah go ahead, inject me with a drug that's known to cause catastrophic neurological damages,' they didn't give us that opportunity, they know better than we do," Ed Smith said.

Last month, after a two-week long civil trial, a jury in Douglas County found the surgery center negligent and awarded the Smiths nearly $15 million in damages. Braley says it's the second largest medical negligence verdict in Colorado history. Because of damages caps, the Smiths say they will likely receive about a third of the award.

Robbin Smith
Robbin Smith (credit: CBS)

"It's not about the money," Robbin said. "Give me my legs back, that will trade for the money, that will completely trade for the money. Is that going to happen? No."

The Smiths had been looking forward to traveling, especially to the beach, Robbin's favorite destination. Robbin now needs 24/7 care for the rest of her life. Ed retired early to help care for her. They say travel is often too difficult to manage.

Robbin and Ed Smith
Robbin and Ed Smith (credit: CBS)

A representative of the law firm that's defending the surgery center said Thursday it's attorneys were not available to comment on the case. They've filed a motion to delay final judgement as they seek to resolve "post-trial motions and issues" in the case.

Lauren DiSpirito reports for CBS4 News at 10 p.m. She covers breaking news and feature stories along Colorado's Front Range. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Lauren. Share your story ideas with her here.

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