July 24, 2015

Wrongful Birth Malpractice Resulting from Incorrectly Interpreted Genetic Testing

A pregnancy can be determined to be high risk for any number of reasons but one common factor that makes a pregnancy “high risk” is advanced maternal age. Women who become pregnant when they are older are more likely to carry fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Because of these risks of complication, some mothers-to-be elect to undergo genetic testing known as Chorionic Villus Sampling (“CVS”). CVS is a prenatal test in which a sample of chorionic villi is removed from the placenta for testing. When CVS reveals the presence of a condition that is likely to severely diminish the quality of life of the child, it is generally well within the pregnant woman’s rights to terminate the pregnancy. If that testing is not interpreted accurately – i.e., it is reported as normal – an unwanted, full term pregnancy can result and the parents of the child could have a claim for malpractice under Maryland law.

In addition to Down syndrome, another genetic or congenital abnormality that can occur due to advanced maternal age pregnancy is Smith Magenis Syndrome (“SMS”). SMS is a severe genetic disorder that can cause significant intellectual disability, delayed and impaired speech and language skills, severe sleep disturbances and severe behavioral problems. SMS occurs as the result of a defect on the 17th chromosome. Children who are born with SMS are likely to require a life-time of 24-hour supervision and are unlikely to ever live independently or be gainfully employed.

In medical malpractice cases involving the failure to accurately interpret prenatal genetic testing, the defendants often claim that the chromosomal abnormality is “subtle” or “hard to see.” To refute this defense, your medical malpractice attorney should be armed with experienced, credible experts in genetics who will explain to the jury that although genetic testing is complicated, those who are experienced in performing and evaluating such tests would have had absolutely no difficulty recognizing the chromosomal defect. Of equal importance is the use of genetic experts who have the ability to convey the intricacies of genetic testing to laypersons, such as members of a jury.

If you or a loved one elected to undergo genetic testing that you believe was incorrectly interpreted by a healthcare provider, call one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225.

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July 24, 2015

Colonoscopy Procedure Leads to Verdict Against Anesthesiologist

Last month, a Fairfax County, Virginia jury returned a verdict of $500,000 against a Bethesda, Maryland based anesthesiologist for her conduct during a colonoscopy procedure she oversaw. As reported by multiple news outlets, as the Plaintiff, a Virginia man, prepared for his colonoscopy in a medical suite, he pressed the record button on his smartphone, in an effort to capture the post-operative instructions that anticipated his doctor would give him. His smartphone, which was in his pants pocket and placed under the operating table during the procedure, ended up recording the entire procedure. When he returned to his home, the man pressed play and was shocked at what his phone had recorded. In short, what he heard was the entire operating room team, including his anesthesiologist and gastroenterologist, openly and viciously mocking him while he under anesthesia. For example, at the outset of the procedure, a medical assistant noted that the man had a rash. In response, the anesthesiologist warned her not to touch it, tell the young woman that she “might get some syphilis on your arm or something” then adding, “it’s probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right.” The anesthesiologist was also recorded telling the sedated man that “after five minutes of talking to you in the pre-op…I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a bit.” In addition to the shocking commentary, the health care providers also instructed an assistant to lie to the man after the procedure and how the doctors would endeavor to avoid him after the colonoscopy. Lastly, the doctors also discussed placing a false diagnosis on his chart – stating that the man had hemorrhoids, when in fact he did not.

In reaching its ruling, the jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation (spoken untruths), $200,000 for medical malpractice and $200,000 in punitive damages. Importantly, although the conversations were confined to the operating room and operating room team, Virginia law clearly stated that slander like the comments made by the health care providers need not be widely published, but rather, need only be said by one party to another and be understood by the second party as being a true fact, when in fact it is not. Although the defense attorneys attempted to argue that the comments were privileged communications between physicians regarding the diagnosis/condition of the plaintiff, the trial court disagree, noting that the conversations far exceeded the scope of the colonoscopy and involved multiple other health professionals in the operating suite. The defense lawyers also attempted to argue that the recording had been made illegally, however, Virginia is what is known as a “one party consent” state, meaning only one person has to agree to the recording for it to be legal.

This verdict has been widely described as one of the first of its kind by legal practitioners and scholars. Given the advances and pervasiveness of today’s technology, this author theorizes that it likely will not be the last. Although patients who are undergoing more traditional types of surgeries likely will not have cell phones or other recording devices in operating rooms, with more and more procedures taking place in office-type surgical suites, physicians must now be cognizant of not only how the perform a procedure, but the things they say during it regarding a patient. Cases such as this one only further strengthen the position of advocates for cameras in all operating rooms so that patients can be sure their rights are not being violated and that the skills of their surgeons can be checked and reviewed in the event of something going awry.

At STSW, our lawyers are well-equipped to litigate cases in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas in which patients’ rights have been victimized. Call our lawyers for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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July 17, 2015

Medical Malpractice Involving Failure to Timely Diagnose Stroke Resulting In “Locked-In Syndrome”

According to the National Stroke Association, a stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, and brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, functions controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost. A stroke can have different impacts on people ranging from minor problems such as temporary weakness in limbs to more serious problems such as paralysis, losing the ability to speak or death. Moreover, in some people these issues are temporary and in others they prove to be permanent.

Given the devastating effects that a stroke can have, the importance in diagnosing and treating them quickly cannot be overstated. They key is quickly recognizing the symptoms. Classic stroke symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, leg or one side of the body; sudden loss of vision, strength, coordination, sensation, or speech; and trouble swallowing. It is crucial that when a patient presents with any one or a combination of these symptoms, that the doctor include a stroke in the differential diagnosis.

One of the most serious conditions that can result from a delay in diagnosis of a stroke is what has been named “Locked-In Syndrome.” Locked-In Syndrome can occur as the result of a brain stem stroke. A person who suffers from Locked-In Syndrome is fully awake and conscious but is unable to speak, move their limbs or faces. Often, they are able only to move and blink their eyes. Although sometimes the severity of the stroke itself can cause this type of brain stem damage, often times such serious damage and complication can be avoided if the doctor timely diagnoses and appropriate treats the stroke. If you or a loved one has had a stroke that you think could have, and should have been diagnosed sooner, we encourage you to contact one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys to discuss your options at (410) 385-2225.

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July 16, 2015


Recent reports have alleged that hundreds of unsuspecting patients who underwent spinal fusion surgery at Baltimore Washington Medical Center between 2007 and 2013 may have been implanted with defective spinal hardware, including spinal screws and other hardware. In particular, these reports suggest that patients of Dr. Randy Davis, a surgeon who operates at Baltimore Washington Medical Center, may have received and implanted spinal hardware manufactured by Spinal Solutions, Inc. that was not FDA approved, and therefore, potentially unsafe for patients. If you or a loved one were implanted with defective spinal hardware, and this was known by the doctors and/or hospital that utilized this equipment, you may have a medical malpractice against those persons or entities. The implantation of defective spinal hardware is well known to potentially result in additional harm to a person’s body, the need for subsequent removal and revision surgeries or other significant complications. At STSW, our lawyers have decades of experience in handling similar types of medical negligence or product liability types of cases involving defective medical/surgical equipment. Accordingly, if you or a loved one have had spinal fusion surgery at Baltimore Washington Medical Center between the years 2007 and 2013, you are urged to contact our office for a no cost consultation at 410-385-2225.

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July 13, 2015

What to Expect at STSW in Your Medical Malpractice Case

When you or a loved one have been injured or has died as a result of suspected medical negligence / medical error in Maryland, our lawyers know that it is difficult to know what do, who to call and what your next steps should be in order to determine if you have a medical malpractice case that is worthwhile pursing. Here is what you can expect from our firm and our lawyers when you make that initial phone call to us.

Upon answering your call, our receptionist will transfer your call to one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys. During the call, our attorneys will take down your general biographical information and then ask you to explain as many of the details of your potential malpractice case. Our attorneys will do their best to construct an accurate timeline of events from the information that you are able to provide to us. In some instances, based upon the information that you provide, our attorneys will be able to tell you that your case is unlikely to be able to be successfully pursued. In other instances, our attorneys may ask you to provide us with additional information in order for us to determine whether it may be a viable case.

If our experienced attorneys believe that you may have a sustainable case, they will schedule you for an in-person meeting with all of the necessary family members or surviving beneficiaries. It is very important that we be able to meet (or speak) with all injured members of the family or all surviving beneficiaries of an individual who has deceased (for example, the surviving spouse, children or parents), as they each may have claims in the case that must be pursued. At the in person meeting, which will either take place in our office or at a mutually convenient location, you will meet with one of our medical malpractice lawyers as well as our in-house nurse. Together, we will once again review the pertinent facts giving rise to your claim, go over the timeline of events and review any documents or medical records that you might already have obtained. In addition, we will seek additional information from you regarding your medical history, treating doctors over the years and any other pertinent information.

Based upon this information, our team will make a determination as to whether your case merits additional investigation and review of all of the relevant medical records. If such an investigation is merited, we will have you or your loved one enter into an agreement with our firm that spells out the legal services we will provide to you in exchange for the compensation we will receive, IF we are successful on your behalf. At STSW, all of the medical malpractice cases that we pursue are taken on a contingency basis. This means that we advance all costs in expenses and do not ask for any money from you up front, and only ask that we be repaid those costs (along with our attorneys’ fees) if we are successful in securing a settlement or trial verdict in your favor. Our attorneys’ fees are based upon a percentage of the gross recovery. In short, if we ultimately determine you do not have a case or we are unsuccessful in pursuing your case, you owe us nothing.

In addition to having you sign our customary fee agreement, we will also ask that you sign a HIPAA medical records authorization permitting us to get your medical records from your various doctors. We will then immediately request your records from these doctors. It typically takes 4-6 weeks for us to receive your complete set of medical records. Once we receive your medical records, our nurse and experienced medical malpractice lawyer will both review the records to see whether they show (or do not show) evidence of a medical mistake.

If, after reviewing all of the relevant medical records, we believe they show evidence of medical malpractice, our attorneys will send your records to a medical doctor within the same specialty of medicine as the potential defendant doctor for he/she to review. You see, in Maryland, in order to file a medical malpractice lawsuit (unless it is an informed consent case), you must have what is called a “certifying” doctor sign an affidavit, stating that he/she believes the defendant doctor committed medical malpractice. It is not enough for our lawyers to believe there is medical malpractice. Simply put, these doctors (who we call experts) must be willing to testify that there is a greater than 50% chance your injuries/death would not have occurred if your doctor had not breached the standard of care and committed medical malpractice. If we are able to find a physician/expert who is willing to testify in that manner, then we will call you and tell you that we are able to pursue your case. As you might expect, many doctors in Maryland are unwilling to testify against their fellow doctors in Maryland. Accordingly, we will usually seek to find doctors outside the state of Maryland to review our clients’ records and assist us as expert witnesses.

Once we know that are able to pursue your case, our office will always make an effort to try and settle your case (prior to filing a lawsuit) with the defendant or his/her insurance carrier. Although pre-suit settlements are rare, we understand that a quick resolution may often be in everyone’s best interests and prevents you from having to go through a litigation process that in most instances can last 1-2 years.

In addition to retaining the expert(s) who will offer opinions in support of your case – that the doctor who treated breached the standard of care – we will also hire other medical or economic experts to testify how the medical negligence caused you injury, the nature of your injuries, what impact the injuries have had on your ability to live a normal life and what impact to your life there will be in the future. For example, we hire outside nurses to testify on what types of medical equipment, care and services you may need in the future while you recover from your injuries. We also sometimes hire economists to testify on the economic losses you have sustained such as past/future medical expenses, past/future lost wages/earnings or loss of future health benefits.

After retaining all of these experts and ruling out the possibility of pre-suit settlement, our lawyers will file your lawsuit. We will then serve a copy of the lawsuit upon the defendant doctor(s). They will have 30 days to file a response to the lawsuit. At that time, the Court will issue what is called a Scheduling Order setting forth certain dates by which time certain parts of the case need to be completed. The Court will also set a trial date in your case. Typically, depending on the jurisdiction the case is filed in, your trial will be set 12-15 months after the date the defendant files his response to the lawsuit.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, call our lawyers at STSW for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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July 10, 2015

Shoulder Dystocia Medical Malpractice Resulting in Erb’s Palsy

Shoulder dystocia occurs when, during childbirth, the baby’s shoulders get stuck on the mother’s pelvis bones after delivery of the head. This complication is considered an obstetric emergency and, if it is not dealt with quickly, serious injury can occur to both the pregnant woman and the baby. Indeed, if during shoulder dystocia the umbilical cord is compressed for even a short time, the baby can die. Significant risk factors for shoulder dystocia include gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain and post-term pregnancies.

One method of resolving an episode of shoulder dystocia is by applying gentle traction in an attempt to free the shoulder from the pelvic bone. However, it is crucial that the obstetrician not apply excessive traction. Doing so can cause a severe and permanent injury to the baby’s brachial plexus, which is a group of major nerves that run from the spine into the arm that control movement and sensation to the arm. If too much traction is used, the injury to the brachial plexus can cause devastating Erb’s Palsy which is essentially paralysis and lack of sensation of the arm due to a tearing of the brachial plexus.

In medical malpractice cases involving shoulder dystocia resulting in Erb’s Palsy, the defendant doctor often takes the position that because shoulder dystocia is a recognized obstetrical emergency, a brachial plexus injury is a reasonable – although unfortunate – result of the doctor’s attempt to save the child’s life. An experienced medical malpractice attorney must anticipate this argument and be prepared with the appropriate experts to counter it with evidence that the risk/reward analysis of the particular circumstances did not warrant the excessive traction that cased the injuries. We have successfully handled many Erb's Plasy cases. For a free consultation, please call us.

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July 6, 2015

Malpractice Regarding Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat Sepsis

A recent article in Maryland’s legal newspaper, The Daily Record, titled “Md. hospitals take aim at costly, deadly sepsis,” correctly points out that hospitals must have the proper procedures in place to both detect and treat sepsis quickly. The article can be found here.

Sepsis is a complication of an infection and occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body that can damage organs, causing devastating organ failure. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, the patient’s blood pressure will drop dramatically, often resulting in the patient’s death. In a patient suffering from sepsis, every second counts as a delay of as little as an hour “could mean the difference between life and death.”

Some of the classic symptoms of early onset of sepsis include fever, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, rash, vomiting, diarrhea and confusion. Doctors encountering patients with these types of symptoms should immediately recognize sepsis and begin treating with antibiotics and intravenous fluids until a blood test either confirms or rules out the presence and progression of sepsis. In medical malpractice cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat the onset of sepsis, the defense often argues that the delay was not unreasonable. Proving that the delay caused unnecessary injury to the patient can be very complicated. Therefore, medical malpractice cases involving sepsis and septic shock should be assessed by an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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July 2, 2015

Spinal Cord Stimulator Malpractice: Protecting the Cord at All Costs

Severe back or pain is one of the more debilitating conditions facing many Americans today. Lower back pain, which starts below the ribcage, is called lumbar back pain. Mid-back pain, centrally located, is called thoracic back pain. Neck pain is often referred to as cervical pain. Sometimes this pain comes on suddenly (acutely) following an injury from an athletic activity or fall. In other cases, the pain comes on slowly and lasts for months and months, if not years. In many of these instances, the pain is caused either by degeneration of the spinal cord discs. Spinal cord discs are gel-like spacers that occupy the spaces between the spinal cord vertebrae. These discs are prone to wear and tear from injuries or from mere aging. As these discs weaken, the discs can bulge out of the normal disc space, or even rupture, which in turn, puts pressure on the spinal nerve roots that run through the back region. Discs that extend slightly outside that normal disc space are often called "bulging" or "herniated" discs. Intense pain often results when these herniated/bulging discs put pressure on the surrounding nerve roots. In many instances, the pain can radiate into a person's buttocks or down into their legs. In severe cases, the herniation can result in loss of bowel or bladder control, leg weakness or even paralysis.

Initially, back pain is treated conservatively with over the counter pain medications or even prescription pain medications or muscle relaxants. If those treatments fail, your orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon may recommend you for what is known as a spinal cord stimulator. A spinal cord stimulator is a device that uses an electrical current to treat chronic pain. Essentially a small pulse generator is used to send electrical pulses to the spinal cord in an attempt to interfere with the nerve impulses that make you feel pain. Typically, doctors will first insert a temporary electrode into your body as a trial. That electrode is controlled by the patient with a hand-held stimulator. If the trial proves successful, the physician will typically implant a permanent stimulator under your skin.

During the course of the spinal cord stimulator implantation procedure, the physician inserts "leads", paddle shaped device containing the electrodes, into the spinal canal, just above the spinal cord. That space is called the spinal epidural space (the outermost area of the spinal canal). The leads are inserted either through what is called a percutaneous approach (utilizing a wide bore needle to insert the paddle lead into the epidural space) or through a surgical laminectomy/laminotomy procedure (where the vertebrae at the affected level is temporarily removed so as to gain access to the epidural space through an incision in the ligament that protects the spinal cord. The paddle leads are then sutured in place and a generator (battery) is implanted in the patient's side and connected to the leads. The spinal cord stimulator implantation procedure, while common, carries a high degree of risk of spinal cord injury, including paralysis, loss of bowel/bladder function, etc.

The cardinal rule for all surgeons when implanting a spinal cord stimulator is to protect the spinal cord at all costs. The epidural space is millimeters wide with the spinal cord lying immediately below it. The spinal cord itself, is essentially the consistency of wet pasta, and therefore, can be easily injured if contacted by surgical instruments or the paddle leads with any degree of force. Many patients have what is called "scar tissue" in their epidural space. Scar tissue can result from a prior injury at the level of the cord or if a previous lead had been placed in the area and now needs to come out. Scar tissue often blocks the intended pathway for the paddle leads and makes their implantation difficult. In order to properly place the paddle leads, the surgeon must first free up the scar tissue or gently push the paddle leads through the scar tissue to reach the intended location. In many cases, the surgeon will negligently injure the spinal cord while attempting to free up the scar tissue (either by a surgical instrument) or by pushing the paddle lead into the cord itself (instead of the epidural space). Accordingly, when a surgeon encounters scar tissue, the standard of care requires the surgeon to either convert the procedure from a percutaneous one to an open procedure to better visualize the adhesions, or extend the laminectomy to the area of the adhesions (sometimes the adhesions are located further along the epidural space than the incision that is made in the ligament) to better see what he/she is doing. Failure to do so can cause serious injury and lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.

At STSW, our lawyers have handled a number of cases in the Baltimore, Maryland and Washington D.C. region in which an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon has negligently injured the spinal cord while implanting a spinal cord stimulator. If you or a loved one have suffered a permanent neurological injury following a spinal cord stimulator implantation procedure, call our team for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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June 24, 2015

Wrong-Site Surgery

Some of the most obvious medical mistakes are those in which the doctor operates on the wrong part of the patient’s body. This type of negligence can occur in a variety of situations. The doctor may be careless in his or her reading of the medical chart or the doctor may fail to accurately identify the correct anatomy prior to operating on a structure.

For example, we recently handled a case in which a young woman presented for removal of an ovary that was stricken with an ovarian cyst. During the surgery, the surgeon negligently removed the wrong ovary, which had been healthy. As a result of this careless mistake, a woman with many child-bearing years remaining could be unable to have any more children. She will require an additional, otherwise unnecessary surgery and if the cyst cannot be removed without removing the ovary, removal of the entire ovary will cause her to become permanently infertile and require hormone therapy for life.

These types of medical mistakes can have devastating effects on the patient’s health and, as in the situation described above, can seriously change the plans that a patient has for his or her own life. Notwithstanding how clear these mistakes may appear to be, a competent defense lawyer is often able to create issues that can call in to question whether the doctor was at fault. Therefore, even clear cases of medical malpractice such as these should be reviewed and pursued only by experienced medical malpractice lawyers.

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June 19, 2015

Death Due To Drug Toxicity Associated With Kidney Failure

Physicians have known for decades that persons with decreased renal (kidney) function or kidney failure have a reduced ability to process and metabolize certain drugs such as opiate pain medications. If due to decreased kidney function, the body is unable to metabolize and pass these drugs, the patient can overdose and die. These risks are increased in patients who, in addition to suffering from diminished kidney function, also suffer from liver dysfunction.

When a patient with decreased kidney function or kidney failure presents to a hospital in pain, that pain should be treated as conservatively as possible. Moreover, if the doctor decides that opiate pain medication is appropriate, that doctor must carefully monitor the patient for signs of drug toxicity, including confusion, disorientation, hallucinations and a deterioration of vital signs.

Our firm has evaluated and successfully pursued multiple medical malpractice cases involving the negligent administration of prescription pain medications to patients with decreased ability to metabolize them due to kidney dysfunction. Due to their complexity, it is important that such cases be evaluated by a skilled and qualified medical malpractice attorney.

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June 12, 2015

Using Expert Witnesses in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

Expert witnesses are necessary in virtually every medical malpractice case filed in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Knowing which types of experts to use and not to use can make or break a case. Therefore, it is important to choose a lawyer who has extensive experience choosing, retaining and using experts.

In each of our cases, we identify the type of experts we need to prove our case. Some of the experts may focus on whether the defendant did anything wrong, such as a surgical expert or internal medicine expert who can testify as to whether the defendant violated the standard of care. Other experts we use may focus on whether a defendant’s conduct caused any injury, such as a neurologist who may testify that a violation of the standard of care during surgery caused paralysis. Finally, we use damage experts, such as life care planners and economists who testify about the cost of future medical care.

After we identify the categories of experts, we frequently consult with experts in those categories we have used before in other cases, since we have experience with such persons. Sometimes, we need to find a new expert in a field, which we do by researching which experts have published medical literature in the field of medicine that relates to our case, and consulting with other attorneys who have used similar experts previously.

Once we retain experts in a case, we work with the experts to make sure that they have the information necessary to render their opinions. This may include medical records and deposition transcripts previously taken in the case.

Defendants frequently challenge the opinions of the Plaintiffs’ experts. Therefore, from time to time we have to oppose motions to strike or experts or limit their testimony. This has become more frequent in recent years. In Maryland the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure govern the admission of expert testimony in Maryland. Rule 5-702 states that expert testimony may be admitted if the court determines that the testimony will assist the trier of fact (usually a jury, but sometimes a judge) to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue in the case. In making that determination, the court determine (1) whether the person is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education, (2) the appropriateness of the expert testimony on the particular subject, and (3) whether a sufficient factual basis exists to support the expert testimony.

Under this rule, it is well established that a person must only demonstrate a minimal amount of competence or expertise on the subject on which he is allegedly an expert in order to be qualified to testify as an expert witness. The critical test is ‘whether the expert’s opinion will aid the trier of fact on a particular subject or issue. Several courts have held that a witness is qualified to testify as an expert when he exhibits such a degree of knowledge as to make it appear that his opinion has some value . . . whether such knowledge has been gained from observation or experience, standard books or any other reliable sources. In addition, it’s well established that a factual basis for expert testimony may arise from a number of sources, such as facts obtained from the expert’s first-hand knowledge, facts obtained from the testimony of others, and facts related to an expert through the use of hypothetical questions.

As a general proposition, in order to qualify as an expert, the witness need not possess special knowledge if he or she is generally conversant with the subject of the controversy. In the context of medical malpractice cases, although the expert must have sufficient familiarity with the particular medical technique involved in the suit, he need not have personally performed the procedure or be a specialist in the area. Generally speaking, objections attacking an expert’s training, expertise or basis of knowledge go to the weight of the evidence and not its admissibility.

If you have a medical malpractice case, make sure you consult with an attorney who has extensive experience working with expert witnesses. It may make the difference in whether you win or lose your case.

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June 11, 2015

Death Due To Pulmonary Embolism After Orthopedic Surgery

Our Baltimore law firm routinely investigates potential medical malpractice cases in which a person has died as the result of a pulmonary embolism after what should have been a routine surgery.

Orthopedic surgery and subsequent immobility from such surgery puts patients at an increased risk of developing blood clots in the veins of their legs following surgery. These blood clots, called “deep vein thrombosis,” can cause swelling in the leg where the clots exist. As the clots continue to grow, small portions of the blood clot can break off and travel to the lungs, at which point they are called “pulmonary emboli.” Because of this risk, patients with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli are often given blood thinners which prevent the clot from growing large enough to break off and travel to the lungs, killing the patient.

Two classic warning signs of a blood clot in the legs that can break off and travel to the lungs are cast tightness and shortness of breath. A patient who complains of these symptoms following surgery should immediately undergo an ultrasound and be given blood thinners which are used to stop the growth of the clot and minimize the chance that it will grow large enough to break off and travel to the lungs or elsewhere.

The failure to timely recognize and treat a pulmonary embolism is an entirely preventable medical mistake, especially in circumstances where a patient who has recently undergone surgery complains of cast tightness and shortness of breath. In 2012, our law firm obtained a settlement of $5 million in such a case, which is believed to be the largest settlement ever in Maryland in a case involving a pulmonary embolism.

The death of a patient following a routine surgery can be caused by a variety of factors. Given the complexity of such cases, they should be evaluated only by an experienced and seasoned medical malpractice attorney.

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