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A Kentucky jury has awarded $2.2 million to a married couple after the husband’s pre-operative work-up went awry, resulting in the amputation of his right leg below the knee. In evaluating the man’s candidacy for a total knee replacement, a cardiac work-up showed a possible blockage in his coronary arteries. Accordingly, a coronary angiogram was performed.

A coronary angiogram a procedure that uses x-ray to determine if coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed, where they are blocked or narrowed and by how much. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted in your groin or arm and into an artery and up to the heart. Fluid is injected through the catheter so that arteries can be seen well on the x-ray and then x-ray photographs are taken as the fluid passed through the artery.

Approximately 16 minutes into the procedure it was determined that there was no blockage and that the previous test had yielded a “false positive.” Nevertheless, the procedure was continued for another 74 minutes. After the lengthy coronary angiogram, the man developed blood clots which traveled to his right leg, blocking the flow of blood to that limb and killing the tissue. As a result, the man’s leg was caused to be amputated below the knee. The award included $1.25 million for pain and suffering, $780,000 for medical expenses and $250,000 to the man’s wife for loss of consortium.

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A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania jury has awarded $5 million to the Estate and surviving family members of an 88 year-old man who died after medical professionals improperly placed a feeding to into his lung. The man had been transferred from his assisted living facility to a local hospital at which time a feeding tube was inserted. The man had pulled the feeding tube out and so doctors had to reinsert it the following day. After the feeding tube was reinserted, he was taken for a chest x-ray to confirm proper placement of the tube.

The radiologist on duty, a first-year resident, reviewed the x-ray and read it as normal. After that finding, the patient was fed through the feeding tube for more than twelve hours, filling his lungs with fluid, after which he began exhibiting signs of physical and respiratory distress. The patient’s family alleged that the healthcare providers failed to recognize that the physical distress was the result of the feeding tube having been improperly placed. The Defendants focused much of their case on trying to minimize the amount of damages that the jury should award. In doing so, the Defendants emphasized the man’s age, life expectancy and history of medical issues.

Settlement negotiations before trial had stalled when, in response to a $500,000 demand from the patient’s family, the Defendants made a collective offer of just $200,000. The jury’s verdict included $3.5 million to the patient’s estate for his 12 hours of pain and suffering and $1.5 million to his family members to their loss of a loved one.

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A recent study has found that medical errors are now the third most common cause of death in the United States. The study found that medical mistakes claim approximately 251,000 lives each year – approximately 9.5 percent of all deaths annually – which is more than deaths caused each year by respiratory disease, Alzheimers, strokes and accidents. In fact, the study found that only heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699) kill more people each year. Other categories of death which were part of the study included diabetes, flu/pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide.

The Johns Hopkins professor who ran the study pointed out that in the medical community, when mistakes occur, medical professionals desire (and often are able) to keep those mistakes and confidential. Many states, including Maryland, have medical review board statutory privileges which protect from disclosure the results of investigations into medical mistakes and prevent others from the medical community from learning from the mistakes of others, which could otherwise reduce the risk of reoccurrence. The professor explained that this veil of confidentiality stands in stark contrast to how mistakes in the aviation community are dealt with. He said that when planes crash, the reason is not kept confidential but rather is disseminated widely to every pilot and airline so that the pilots learn from the investigations and can prevent similar disasters in the future. Importantly, the study does not take into account all of the people who are injured by medical mistakes, but who did not pass away.

Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have decades of combined experience pursuing a large variety of medical malpractice cases. If you or a loved one was the victim of a medical mistake, call us today for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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A nearly-two-week jury trial in Pennsylvania has culminated in a more than $44 million verdict for a woman who suffered a catastrophic brain injury that left her paralyzed. The woman, who was 57 at the time, underwent surgery in 2011 to remove a mass on her brain. After that surgery, she was placed on Heparain, an anticoagulant drug. While in the intensive care unit, hospital personnel measured the woman’s coagulation using an aPTT test and found that it had risen from 19 seconds to 32 seconds.

Nevertheless, according to the woman’s attorneys, hospital staff then stopped the regular aPTT testing for at least 48 hours. During that time, the woman experienced a brain hemorrhage and, when she finally was tested again, her aPTT rate was 61. The positions of the lawyers at trial was that if the aPTT numbers are changing, that is an indicator to continue testing, not eliminate it from her post-surgical plan of care and that upon seeing those test results, Heparin should have been discontinued. The defendants’ main position/theory at trial was that the woman’s brain bleed were the result of complications from the surgery unrelated to the heparin.

The hemorrhage resulted in a brain injury which left the woman unable to walk, or otherwise care for herself on a daily basis. Her husband now spends the majority of his time caring for her basic needs.

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A Connecticut jury has awarded $1.8 million to a 28 year-old woman whose surgeon inadvertently cut one of her fallopian tubes, rendering her sterile. The woman presented to the hospital in May of 2011 complaining of pelvic pain on her right side. At that time, the emergency department’s differential diagnosis included appendicitis and infection.

One week later, the woman underwent an appendectomy performed by one surgeon. During that surgery, a second surgeon – the defendant in this case – came into the operating room to operate on an abscess of the right fallopian tube. The second surgeon, who had never performed this type of surgery before, cut the wrong fallopian tube, rendering the woman infertile. As a result, the woman required another surgical procedure. Additionally, the only option for reproduction for this woman now is in-vitro fertilization which is expense and has unnecessary risks and side effects.

The defense’s position at trial was that the woman more likely than not would not have been able to conceive even absent this surgeon’s mistake because of the infection that she had when she came in. The jury rejected this argument after the patient’s attorneys showed that women with this type of infection are able to get pregnant between 85 and 90 percent of the time. The jury’s award included $190,000 for medical expenses, $1.3 million for emotional pain and suffering and mental anguish, and $310,000 to the woman and her husband for loss of consortium.

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When an individual is injured as the result of the negligence of someone else, whether by way of medical negligence, a car accident or otherwise, the insurer that pays that individual’s medical bills almost always has what’s called a “right of subrogation.” What the subrogation provisions in most insurance policies states is that if you recover money from the negligent third-party in a lawsuit or some other type of personal injury settlement, you have an obligation to reimburse the insurance company for the medical bills and expenses that it paid on your behalf for your care and treatment related to the injuries.

As you might imagine, the insurer’s right of subrogation can create a significant obstacle to settling your Maryland personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit. Because the medical bills (and consequently the lien) often are extremely high, they can come close to wiping out any funds which would have been available to the injured plaintiff, leaving the injured plaintiff with next to nothing from his or her personal injury settlement.

Experienced personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers know that the keys to dealing with the issue of medical liens are to confront it head-on early in the litigation and to stay on top of it as the litigation proceeds. It is important that your personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer keep the lien in mind when making almost all decisions relating to the litigation, especially decisions regarding how much expense the case can afford to carry in relation to the case’s realistic value when judged in relation to the need to satisfy the lien at the time of settlement. Incurring too much expense in relation to a case’s value can seriously harm the injured plaintiff’s chances of walking away with money from a settlement when there is a large medical lien in play.

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In Maryland medical malpractice cases, there generally are two types of claims that can be asserted. The first is a garden-variety medical malpractice claim that alleges that a physician provided negligent care (care that fell below the standard of care), which caused injuries and damages to the patient. The second is called lack of “informed consent” claim, through which a patient alleges that the physician failed to properly, appropriately and/or fully explain the treatment to the patient and to warn of any material risks or dangers of the treatment so that the patient can make an intelligent and informed decision about whether or not to go forward with the proposed treatment.

At trials in which only medical malpractice claims are at issue, attorneys who represent the doctor often try to introduce evidence that the doctor had conversations with the patient about the potential risks and complications of the treatment and that the patient agreed to move forward anyway. In other words, the medical malpractice defense attorneys try to show that the doctor complied with his obligation under the informed consent doctrine even where there has been no allegation that that doctrine was breached. The purpose of this strategy is to try to convince the jury: (a) that the medical malpractice victim assumed the risk of what happened; and (b) that the cause of what happened could not have been negligence or medical malpractice because the doctor warned the patient that the issue could occur.

Recognizing the flaws in that logic, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held in the 2012 case of Schwartz v. Johnson that evidence that a physician warned the patient of the potential risks and complications of treatment is inadmissible in a pure medical malpractice lawsuit where no informed consent claim has been made. In coming to that decision, the Court of Special appeals held that such evidence is “irrelevant” to the patient’s medical malpractice claim and also “highly prejudicial” to the patient’s case.

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A Montgomery County jury awarded more than $40 million to a couple who claimed that their Rockville, Maryland fertility doctor failed to properly screen the surrogate mother who carried their child. The crux of the couple’s claim was that the standard of care required that the fertility doctor obtain and review the potential surrogate’s obstetrical and gynecological history before clearing the candidate to act as the surrogate. Although the doctor did inquire of the candidate about her history, the candidate lied by stating that she had previously carried four pregnancies to term without complications. The doctor, however, never obtained the pertinent medical records to verify the candidate’s representations.

What the couple did not know was that the candidate had in fact given birth to six children and that during the last pregnancy, she suffered from preeclampsia, a complication that resulted in premature birth. Unfortunately, the surrogate suffered from the same complication during the pregnancy with the couple’s child. The child was born at a premature gestation of 25 weeks and passed away twenty-one days later from what was described as “overwhelming” sepsis. It was alleged that had the fertility doctor properly and appropriately looked into the surrogate’s medical history – and not merely relied upon the surrogate’s statements – the couple would have had information which would have caused them reject the potential surrogate as a candidate. The fertility doctor’s defense was that it was appropriate to rely upon the representations of the candidate and not take any further action to verify those representations.

The verdict, which included $42 million for wrongful death and $2.1 million for the conscious pain and suffering of the child, will be reduced to approximately $890,000 pursuant to Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages.

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A Chicago jury has awarded more than $1 million to a 53 year-old man who suffers impaired vision as the result of his doctor’s failure to timely diagnose and treat syphilis. The man presented to the defendant as a new patient in February of 2008 complaining of coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in his chest. He reported that he was gay but the doctor did not note that in his medical records or ask any follow-up questions regarding his sexual practices. According to his lawyers, these symptoms can be consistent with males suffering from the initial stage of syphilis. He was sent home with medicine for bronchitis.

The man presented again one month later after his symptoms had returned. At that time, he also was experiencing a rash on his hands and feet. The defendant prescribed him Benadryl for a suspected allergic reaction to the medication and an inhaler for his chest symptoms. The symptoms went away and he was symptom free for approximately one year until in 2009, he began to experience vision problems.

An eye doctor referred him for a blood test which was positive for both syphilis and HIV. By the time the syphilis was diagnosed, the man was suffering from the third stage of syphilis – called neurosyphilis – during which the bacteria invade the nervous system and compromise brain neurons. The condition can be treated with a 14 day regimen of antibiotics but the neurological damage already done cannot be reversed. In addition to vision impairment, the man also suffers from short-term memory issues. He argued at trial that if he had received a simple blood test at the second visit to the Defendant, his condition would have been diagnosed and his long-term health problems would have been avoided. The Defendant argued in part that the man’s HIV sped up the progression of his syphilis to neurosyphilis due to his compromised immune system.

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A New York jury has awarded $11.6 million to a man who suffered a stroke that left him permanently disabled. The patient presented to the emergency room with dizziness, headaches and an inability to stand. He immediately came under the care of a Physician’s Assistant who ordered a CT scan of the brain. The case presented by the patient’s medical malpractice attorneys was that the CT scan was negligently reported by the radiologist as normal when it in fact showed that a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain was blocked. Because this serious abnormality was not reported to the physicians treating the patient, he was discharged home with the diagnosis of a sinus infection. He was not given blood-thinners which could have prevented a future and more damaging stroke. Weeks later, he suffered a second massive stroke that left him permanently disabled.

The testimony of expert witnesses in the fields of radiology, neurology, rehabilitative medicine and economics was presented to the jury, whose award included past, present and future pain and suffering damages of $8.5 million. The patient lost his successful business as the result of the malpractice.

Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have successfully resolved a number of cases involving the negligent interpretation of radiological and other diagnostic studies. If you or a loved one think you were the victim of this or any other type of medical mistake, call us today for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.