You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Family of school principal who died donating bone marrow reaches $5.5M medical malpractice settlement

NJ.com logo NJ.com 11/13/2020 Chris Sheldon, nj.com
a man in a suit standing in front of a building: Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson, inset, who died during bone marrow surgery. © Sophie Nieto-Munoz | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson, inset, who died during bone marrow surgery.

Lawyers for the family of Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson, who died last year while donating his bone marrow to a teenager in France he did not know, have settled a medical malpractice suit for $5.5 million.

Nelson, 44, died in April after he fell into a coma during the procedure to remove his bone marrow at Hackensack University Medical Center in February 2019.

His family filed suit in Superior Court of Union County in July last year and sought damages for his death, alleging he should have never been administered anesthesia that day.

“Unfortunately, this selfless act took Dr. Nelson’s life as the anesthesiologist committed medical malpractice during the procedure, leading to Dr. Nelson suffering severe brain damage and ultimately death several weeks later,” Essex County attorney David A. Mazie said in a statement when the suit was filed in July 2019.

The lawsuit also claimed that anesthesiologist Jerry M. Barrata and ten unnamed specialists were at fault for Nelson’s death.

a person in a suit standing in front of a building: The family of Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson, who died after donating bone marrow to a stranger, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hackensack University Medical Center. © Sophie Nieto-Munoz | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS The family of Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson, who died after donating bone marrow to a stranger, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hackensack University Medical Center.

The suit was filed on behalf of Sheronda Braker, who was Nelson’s fiancé and the mother of his child.

Mazie said in court documents he consulted with multiple experts and that two he spoke with said no medical malpractice took place.

However, Mazie told New Jersey Law Journal that a third expert concluded that the anesthesiologist committed malpractice by failing to promptly administer oxygen when the patient’s oxygen level plunged.

Mazie said in court documents that another difficult aspect of the case was that Nelson, while engaged, was not married at the time of his death and that damages would only be available for his elderly parents and his one child.

“The damages were also severely compromised by the fact that Dr. Nelson did not experience any conscious pain and suffering as the malpractice occurred while he was under anesthesia and he never regained consciousness,” Mazie said in the court documents. “Despite these many obstacles, through hard work and creativity we were able to develop a case of liability and damages which resulted in the aggregate payment of $5.5 million.”

a group of people posing for the camera: Sharonda Baker, the fiancee of Derrick Nelson, talks about him as she wipes away a tear while next to his parents Willie and Juanita, on the left, and attorney David Mazie, in a 2019 file photo. © Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advace Media/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Sharonda Baker, the fiancee of Derrick Nelson, talks about him as she wipes away a tear while next to his parents Willie and Juanita, on the left, and attorney David Mazie, in a 2019 file photo.

Mazie also told New Jersey Law Journal that the case was settled because of the outpouring of sentiment when Nelson died, including a movement to name Westfield High School after him and multiple scholarships created in his name and that those factors would have likely had an impact on the jury if the case had gone to trial.

Nelson served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 20 years and had recently re-enlisted, his father said. His military service included an assignment in the Middle East, school officials have said.

Before coming to Westfield, Nelson served as assistant principal in two public schools in Orange and he began his career in education in 2002 as a teacher in the Plainfield School District.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a voluntary subscription.

Chris Sheldon may be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com.

———

©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

Visit NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J. at www.nj.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From NJ.com

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon