February 5, 2016

$4.2 Million Awarded by Jury for Infection Resulting in Leg Amputation

A Philadelphia jury recently awarded $4.2 million to a woman whose leg was caused to be amputated because of an infection that she developed after undergoing a double-knee replacement.

The patient, who was a diabetic, presented in 2009 with bilateral knee pain and was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in both knees, a diagnosis which was subsequently confirmed by x-ray. Knee replacement surgery was scheduled for December of 2010. After the surgery, the patient was transferred to a rehabilitation facility where she began to develop drainage and a large blister in the area of the incision on her right leg but was discharged soon thereafter. The infection, later determined to be Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) was allowed to progress and in January of 2011, open wounds on her right leg and left heel were discovered. She underwent additional surgeries to have ulcers drained, and to have a skin graft on her right knee and a flap placed on her left leg.

By July of 2011, the patient had undergone three additional surgeries including one to have the hardware from her knee replacements removed. When doctors determined that her left leg had insufficient blood flow to heal properly, the leg was amputated below the knee. In her medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient alleged that her surgeon failed to advise her of the risks associated with bilateral knee replacement surgery in people with a history of diabetes and also failed to order that she undergo vascular evaluation to determine whether she was suffering from arterial or venous insufficiency. It also was alleged that despite the signs and symptoms of an infection that she was exhibiting, her physician negligently discharged her.

The jury’s award, announced seven hours after deliberation, made comprised of $500,000 for past pain and suffering, $1.36 million for future pain and suffering, $127,000 for lost wages, $82,000 for past medical care bills and expenses and 2.13 million in future medical and other care expenses.

The seasoned medical malpractice attorneys of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White have successfully handled a number of cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat infections. We are happy to answer any of your questions regarding potential medical malpractice cases on this, or any other subject. We can be reached at 410-385-2225.

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January 28, 2016

Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Results In $6.9 Million Jury Verdict

A Charleston, SC jury this week ordered a physician and his employer, a radiology company, to pay $6.9 million dollars to a woman and her husband for the loss of chance of survival after a significant delay in diagnosing breast cancer. The now-47 year old woman, employed as a nurse, was 39 when she went for a mammogram. The screening showed new calcifications that weren’t present on a mammogram performed five years prior.

Nevertheless, her doctor interpreted the study as benign and ordered no additional studies, diagnostic testing or follow-up appointments. Two years later, the woman was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Duct Carcinoma. By 2013, the cancer had metastasized (spread) to her bones, including her sternum, spine and hip. The diagnosis was that the disease had become terminal, meaning that there was no hope for a cure.

The attorneys presented testimony of expert witnesses who stated that had additional testing been conducted, her cancer would have been diagnosed sooner and her chances of survival would have been between 85 and 100 percent. Notably, the American Cancer Society recommends that women begin yearly mammograms at age 45. The woman’s attorneys used this fact to show how proactive she was when it came to her health. The verdict included $6.2 million to the woman and $700,000 to her husband for loss of consortium.

The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White have successfully resolved a number of delayed diagnosis of cancer cases. If you or someone you love may have been the victim of such a mistake, call us today for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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January 21, 2016

Carroll County Jury Awards $570,000 in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

This month, a Carroll County jury awarded $570,000 to the estate and surviving family members of a woman whose internal bleeding went undiagnosed, resulting in her untimely death.

The woman presented to the emergency room with a chief complaint of swelling in her left leg and was diagnosed with acute deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, was admitted and given blood thinners. She remained in the hospital for five days before being discharged with prescriptions for two blood thinners. One of the medications required regular monitoring with a test known as INR to ensure the correct dosage. A low INR is an indicator for increasing the dosage and vice versa.

Days after her release from the hospital, her INR score was below the recommended low range and so her physicians recommended increasing the dosage. Thereafter, she woke up with severe pain in her hip and pelvis which the patient’s lawyers argued were tell-tale signs of a hematoma. She returned to the emergency room by ambulance where she was given painkillers and evaluated by a physician’s assistant. At that point, she was unable to walk and complained of spasms in her thigh. No testing or scans were ordered despite the fact that her pain was not responding to narcotic pain medication. Instead, she was transferred to a nursing home facility.

The next day, she was found to be having difficulty breathing in bed. She was taken back to the emergency room by ambulance where it was determined that she was in hemorrhagic shock, a life-threatening condition that occurs when you lose more than 20 percent of your body’s blood or fluid supply. Her INR test at that time was found to be a “dangerously high” 9.9 and imaging revealed a large hematoma. She was administered eleven units of packed red blood cells, stabilizing her condition. The patient was discharge days later, again to a nursing home. The next day, she was found unresponsive and died in an ambulance on the way back to the hospital.

The jury’s verdict was comprised of $38,000 for medical expenses, $8,900 for funeral costs, $127,000 in loss of household services, $125,000 to the patient’s estate for her conscious pain and suffering she experienced prior to her death, $125,000 to her husband and $30,000 to each of her five children.

If you or a loved one may have been the victim of a medical mistake, call us at 410-385-2225.

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January 15, 2016

Damages in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

Understandably, one of the questions that we get asked most often when we first meet with new clients is “what is my case worth?” The law divides personal injury awards into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. While the facts of each particular case dictate which types of damages can be recovered, the following is a broad discussion of some of the types of damages available.

Economic damages are those which are easily capable of being quantified. In short, they are actual, monetary losses that a plaintiff has suffered as the result of a medical mistake (or other personal injury). The most obvious example of economic damages is lost wages. When an injury renders a person unable to work when they were able to work before, they generally can make a lost wage claim. Such a claim analyzes what their average earnings were, determines what their work-life expectancy would have been (i.e., how many more years they would have worked had they not been killed or injured), and then determines what their average earnings would have been over that period of time (taking into consideration factors such as wage increases and inflation). Importantly, a plaintiff may only make a claim for the present value of future lost wages. For example, if it is determined that a person would have earned an additional $1 million over a period of years if they had been able to keep working, the defense does not need to pay them $1 million today to settle that claim. Rather, the defense need only pay an amount which, when invested at reasonable rates of return currently available in the market, will yield a total recovery in the future of approximately $1 million. Usually, plaintiffs’ lawyers employ an expert economist to make this determination.

Another example of economic damages that a plaintiff can claim in a medical malpractice lawsuit is the medical bills and other care expenses incurred as the result of the malpractice. One important thing to remember about making a claim for medical bills is that most health insurers include “subrogation” clauses in their policies. These provisions obligate you, as the insured, to repay to your insurance company some or all of the medical expenses that the company paid out on your behalf in the event that you recover such expenses from a liable third party.

Other types of economic damages include loss of financial support (e.g., children who depended on a parent’s income) and loss of household services (what it would cost to go out in the market and hire someone to do the things that the injured or deceased victim used to do around the house).

Non-economic damages are those which are not capable of being accurately quantified. Such damages may be recovered for, among other things, physical pain, emotional suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement or other nonpecuniary injury. Under Maryland law, non-economic damages are subject to caps (ceilings) and jury awards which exceed the applicable cap are reduced to fit within that maximum allowable award.

If you or someone you know was a victim of a medical mistake, call our experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys at 410-385-2225 to schedule a free consultation.

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January 7, 2016

Delay in Diagnosing Compartment Syndrome Results in $1.5 Million Jury Verdict

A jury in Washington State has awarded more than $1.5 million dollars to a carpenter and his wife after a physician failed to timely diagnose the 56 year-old man’s compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is a condition in which swelling compresses muscles, nerves and blood vessels within an area of the body, restricting the flow of oxygen which in turn destroys nerves and muscles. It was the plaintiffs’ position that compartment syndrome must be addressed within six hours of injury to optimize the outcome of the patient.

In the case, the patient fell sixteen feet from scaffolding onto concrete at his job and was airlifted to a local hospital for treatment. At 7:45 p.m., his wife urged hospital staff to summon a physician to examine her husband but it was not until 2:24 a.m. the following morning that a first-year orthopedic resident examined him. At that time, he merely was given morphine which masked the pain. The resident again examined him at 6 a.m. but again failed to diagnose the process in the man’s left hand. It wasn’t until a 7 a.m. examination by a surgeon – more than twelve hours after the initial injury – that it was determined that the man’s hand was completely numb and that he was suffering from significant compartment syndrome.

At 9 a.m. surgical intervention began. Physicians cut the fibrous tissue enclosing the muscle to relieve the pressure and get the blood and oxygen flowing again. Unfortunately, it was too late as the man had permanently lost all use of his left hand which was described in the lawsuit as a “useless and grotesquely deformed limb.” Not surprisingly, the doctor and hospital took the positions that reasonable care was provided and that it was the patient’s unusual presentation that made his condition difficult to quickly diagnose, positions which ultimately were not accepted by the jury.

Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have successfully litigated numerous cases involving emergency room physicians who have failed to act with any sense of urgency or failed to timely and properly diagnose the patient’s condition, despite clear diagnostic indicators. If you or a loved one may have been the victim of suspected medical negligence, call us at 410-385-2225.

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December 16, 2015

Montgomery County, Maryland Jury Awards $2.6 Million in Medical Malpractice Case

“No human being should ever die from a urinary tract infection in today’s world of modern medicine.” That was the theme of a Maryland medical malpractice case in which the jury last week awarded $2.6 million dollars to the husband and two young children of a woman who indeed died after her physicians failed to timely and appropriately diagnose and treat her urinary tract infection (UTI).

On April 14, 2013, the 33 year-old woman presented to a local hospital with chief complaints of shortness of breath, back pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, dizziness and painful urination. Hours later, it was noted by nursing staff that the patient’s urine was dark in color. The family’s attorneys argued that the presence of an infection was clear and that the medical staff needed to administer antibiotics and make prompt arrangements for her to be transferred to a facility with the capabilities to care for her condition, such as an intensive care unit. Instead, the defendants delayed more than ten hours before administering antibiotics.

By that time, it was too late. The woman was suffering from sepsis, a significant and deadly process during which the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infection, triggering inflammatory responses throughout the body and damaging multiple organ systems, causing vital organs to fail. She died just two days later. Experts for the family testified that this woman’s symptoms on presentation to the hospital “screamed of kidney infection, UTI and sepsis,” but the diagnosis was missed for a critically long period of time.

The jury’s award included money for future care for the young children, the cost of mental health care for the widower, and the loss of financial support that the woman would have provided had she not passed away.

Our medical malpractice attorneys at STSW have, on several occasions, successfully handled cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat infection resulting in sepsis. If you think you or someone you know might have been the victim of this, or any other type of medical mistake, call us today at 410-385-2225.

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December 11, 2015

Failure to Treat Atrial Fibrillation Results in a Massive Stroke and a Massive Settlement

According to the Mayo Clinic, “atrial fibrillation (‘AFib’) is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.” When a patient is experiencing AFib, the heart’s two upper chambers of the heart beat chaotically and irregularly, not in unison with the lower two chambers. The symptoms of AFib include, but are not limited to shortness of breath, weakness and heart palpitations.

In a recent medical malpractice lawsuit, a 63 year-old patient who had long suffered from bouts of AFib presented to a cardiologist who was covering for his own regular doctor, who was on vacation, for an emergency appointment for a flare-up of his AFib. If not properly treated, this condition can cause an accumulation of blood in the heart’s atrial chamber causing increased risk of an embolus and a stroke. Although his regular doctor usually placed him on the medication Coumadin to treat such symptoms, on this visit, the cardiologist allegedly ignored the patient’s past successful history with Coumadin, determined the patient was a low risk for an embolic event and placed him on a high dose of aspirin with instructions to follow up a week later.

A week later, the patient followed up as instructed with his regular cardiologist and was still experiencing symptoms of AFib. He immediately was placed on Coumadin and sent home. However, as his lawyers alleged, the cardiologist failed to recognize that Coumadin would not reach therapeutic levels for several days and with a history of one week of AFib, the drug Heparin was needed to “bridge the gap” until Coumadin reached a therapeutic level.
A day later, the patient suffered a stroke while at home and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, which was a certified stroke center. Although it was determined that he was a good candidate for tPA (a drug that can help to minimize the effects of a stroke), he instead was given an experimental stroke medication called Tenecteplace (TNK) typically used for acute myocardial infarction. After the medication error was discovered, the patient was emergently transferred to another hospital in hopes that an embolectomy (surgical removal of emboli which are blocking blood circulation) would be performed. Unfortunately, after arrival at the second hospital, the stroke team was not notified for an hour and by the time the team was assembled, the stroke was too large for an embolectomy to be performed. Of course, the defense took the position that the one-hour delay did not cause any additional injury.

As the result of the stroke, the patient suffered hemiparesis (weakness of entirety of one side of the body) and aphasia (a communication disorder that results from brain damages) and now requires round-the-clock care at home. The patient’s medical malpractice attorneys were able to obtain funds from the physicians and hospitals involved totaling $4.5 million to settle this case prior to trial.

Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are well-versed in the areas of stroke and atrial fibrillation. If you think you may have medical malpractice case for this, or any other type of injury, call us today for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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December 4, 2015

Maryland Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Case

This week, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the dismissal of a medical malpractice and wrongful death action filed against a board-certified anesthesiologist and critical care physician at the University of Maryland Medical Center. STSW attorneys were not involved with the prosecution or appeal of this case.

The drug Heparin is an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clotting and is often given to patients who are undergoing dialysis. Once of its side effects is that it can decrease the blood platelet level. For this reason, Heparin is not administered to a patient whose platelet level falls below 50 because a condition called “heparin-induced thrombocytopenia” (“HIT”) can result. HIT interferes with the ability of the blood to clot and is a serious condition which can prove fatal.

On December 22, 2008, and notwithstanding the fact that the patient’s platelet level was at a dangerously low level of 1, the patient was given two doses of Heparin. It was alleged in the lawsuit that the patient developed HIT and essentially bled to death the following day. The defendant-doctor denied ordering or administering the Heparin. During the discovery phase of the litigation, the defense lawyer was successful in getting the plaintiffs’ liability expert to admit that the only way that the defendant-doctor could be considered to have acted negligently (in other words, in violation of the standards of acceptable medical care) was if: (1) the defendant-doctor himself administered the Heparin or ordered it to be administered; or (2) if a resident physician acting under the defendant-doctor’s supervision had ordered the Heparin and the order was not corrected by the defendant-doctor in his capacity as the attending physician.

This admission by the plaintiffs’ liability expert proved to be the nail in the coffin of the plaintiffs’ case. During discovery, it simply was never proven that the defendant-doctor had anything to do with the ordering or administration of the drug, nor was it proven that a resident working underneath him did so either. To the contrary, the only reasonable inference that could be drawn from the medical records produced and the testimony given during discovery was that another physician who was not named in the lawsuit may have ordered the Heparin. Without evidence of liability against the only defendant in the case, the appellate court found that the plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawsuit was properly dismissed.

The facts of this case highlight the importance of the thorough and extensive pre-suit investigation carried out by experienced medical malpractice attorneys. At Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, our medical malpractice attorneys understand how crucial it is to have as many potential questions answered as possible – both factual and legal – before entering into the adversarial environment of complex medical malpractice litigation. If you or a loved one may have been the victim of a medical mistake, call one of our medical malpractice attorneys at 410-385-2225.

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November 25, 2015

Delay in Diagnosis of Bacterial Meningitis Results in Eight-Figure Jury Verdict

A Philadelphia jury last week awarded more than $10 million to a now-six year-old boy and his family against a hospital and its physicians who delayed significantly in diagnosing the child’s bacterial meningitis.

The boy – at the time just 11 months old – was taken to the emergency room on December 21, 2009 with a fever and other symptoms that had been persistent over a number of days. He was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and sent home. When his symptoms worsened overnight, the boy was returned to the hospital with an even higher fever, an elevated respiratory rate and an elevated heart rate. According to the plaintiffs’ experts, at this critical juncture the standards of acceptable medical care required that the boy be tested for a bacterial infection. However, he was again sent home with no such test was administered.

Upon arriving at the emergency room for a third time, it took hours for blood work to be completed and even longer for medical personnel to administer the antibiotics necessary to combat the infection. By then, the child had suffered significant, irreversible brain damage. Now almost seven years old chronologically, the child is functioning at the developmental level of a three year-old. At trial, the defense took the position that with conservative treatment at the hospital during the first two visits, the boy’s symptoms – which they believed to be consistent with mere bronchitis – seemed to subside, indicating that such conservative treatment was working and leading them to believe discharging him was appropriate. The jury’s $10.1 million award was comprised of $1.5 million for future medical care, $1.1 million for loss of earning capacity and $7.5 million for pain, suffering and mental anguish.

Our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have significant experience litigating cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat emergent medical conditions such as infection. If you or a loved one may have been the victim of a medical mistake, call us today at (410) 385-2225.

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November 13, 2015

Maryland Wrongful Birth Malpractice

Earlier this month, a Prince Georges County, Maryland jury awarded nearly $400,000 for wrongful birth as the result of the mother/wife becoming pregnant after undergoing a bilateral tubal ligation (BTL) procedure. A BTL is a surgical procedure that involves blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent the female’s egg from being fertilized. In this case, the BTL was performed by cauterization (burning) but it also can be performed by cutting, removing sections of, or placing clips on the fallopian tubes.

In the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs alleged that the woman became pregnant five to eight weeks after undergoing the BTL on January 19, 2011. On April 11, 2014, the woman saw the defendant doctor for a regular visit and advised that she had missed her menstrual period. A pregnancy test was ordered and it was determined that she was in fact pregnant.

After the child was born, a radiological study with dye found that one fallopian tube still was patent (able to carry an egg). She then underwent a second BTL wherein it was found that while the left fallopian tube had been properly cauterized, the right fallopian tube was still perfectly intact. The physician performing this secondary BTL took photographs and video of the tubes before properly cauterizing the right tube, thereby permitting the Plaintiffs to concretely show the jury that a medical mistake had occurred. While the defense took the position that the fallopian tube had regrown – apparently a known risk of such a procedure – the Plaintiffs’ attorneys were able to cast doubt on this theory by showing that the pregnancy occurred within just five to eight weeks of the initial BTL procedure. The jury awarded $397,000 for the future cost of raising the child and did not reduce its award at all for the joy, comfort and society received by the parents from having the child.

If you or a loved one became pregnant after a sterilization procedure, call our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at (410) 385-2225.

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October 30, 2015

Failure to Timely Diagnose Cancer Results in $6 Million Jury Verdict

A New Jersey jury this month awarded $6 million to the family of a man who died from colon cancer that should have been recognized and treated far sooner. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here. In the medical malpractice lawsuit, the family alleged that the 62 year-old patient – whose family medical history included colon cancer – became concerned when he noticed blood in his stool. In 2007, he presented to a colorectal surgeon who, after performing a colonoscopy, told the patient that the blood in his stool was merely the result of hemorrhoids, indicating to the patient that there was nothing to worry about. Interestingly, the doctor had videotaped the colonoscopy so that he could use it for educational purposes in the future.

Approximately two years later, this patient found himself in severe pain and, consequently, presented to the emergency room. There, doctors discovered a large mass on his liver. Days later – and while still admitted to the hospital – another physician performed a second colonoscopy. At that time, it was determined that the patient had been suffering from colon cancer which had metastasized (spread) to his liver.

A review of the video from the first colonoscopy performed in 2007 revealed a polyp in the patient’s colon. A colon polyp is a growth on the lining of the colon. Over time, polyps can become cancerous which is why removing them when discovered is advisable to prevent cancer. Indeed, the Plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the standard of acceptable medical care requires that every polyp that is seen be removed. At trial, the Defendant doctor disputed that the growth seen on the video was a polyp. The patient underwent chemotherapy and multiple surgeries in an effort to slow the cancer’s growth but, ultimately, the patient died in December of 2011. According to the Plaintiff’s experts, if the polyp had been identified and removed during the 2007 colonoscopy, the patient more likely than not would have survived. Unfortunately, however, the two-year delay in diagnosis resulted in his death.

Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at STSW have favorably resolved numerous medical malpractice cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat cancer. If you or a loved one believe that your doctor had the opportunity to diagnose a cancer sooner but failed to do so, give us a call today at (410) 385-2225.

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October 23, 2015

Minnesota Jury Awards $9.1 Million to Paralyzed Man in Medical Malpractice Case

Last week, a Minnesota jury awarded $9.1 to a then-51 year old man who suffered paralysis during surgery to repair a perforated bowel. The verdict is believed to be the third-largest verdict or settlement in the state’s history. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here. The gentleman presented to an area hospital with flu-like symptoms and was given fluids for dehydration until his doctors determined that he was suffering from a perforated bowel. In preparing him for surgery, his doctors stopped the administration of fluids for his dehydration. As a result, his blood pressure dropped dramatically which prevented his spinal cord from receiving adequate blood flow, resulting in permanent spinal cord damage.

His lawyers argued to the jury that the standards of acceptable medical care require that a patient who is severely dehydrated be rehydrated prior to surgery. As is evident from this case, the failure to rehydrate the patient and get his blood flowing properly again had catastrophic consequences. According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the central argument of the defense was “we don’t know how this happened but it couldn’t have happened during surgery.”

Due to his traumatic spinal cord injury, the patient lost all use of his and had to give up his business as a mechanic. The jury’s award included $5 million for future pain and suffering, $2.1 million to cover the costs of his significant future medical care needs and $1.175 million for past and future lost wages.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin and White strictly represent plaintiffs and have significant experience pursuing surgical malpractice cases with catastrophic injuries. If you or a loved one believe you were the victim of such malpractice, call us today at (410) 385-2225.

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