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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October 16, 2015

Can First-Responders be Held Liable for Medical Mistakes?

As experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Maryland, we frequently receive calls from people who believe an ambulance company, paramedic or some other type of emergency first-responder made a medical mistake that caused them needless injury. Of course, the question becomes: can such emergency personnel be held responsible for medical negligence through a medical malpractice lawsuit? The answer to this question, like so many others under the law, is “it depends.”

Maryland statutory law provides immunity to members of “any State, county, municipal, or volunteer fire department, ambulance and rescue squad, or law enforcement agency” if the member meets certain requirements, such as having completed a first aid course and holding a license or certification from the State as an emergency medical services provider. A copy of the statute can be found here. This law is formally titled “Emergency medical care” and has been referred to by Maryland courts as the “Good Samaritan Act.” Importantly, the Good Samaritan Act only provides immunity for ordinary negligence and not for acts of “gross negligence” or willful misconduct.

In 2013, Maryland’s highest court – the Maryland Court of Appeals – was tasked with deciding whether a private, for-profit ambulance company could take advantage of the immunity protections of the Good Samaritan Act. In that case, captioned TransCare Maryland, Inc. v. Murray, it was alleged that an employee of a private ambulance company was negligent in failing to timely and appropriately provide care and treatment to a minor during a helicopter transport from one medical facility to another, resulting in a devastating hypoxic brain injury. The plaintiff sought to hold the paramedic’s employer liable through the doctrine of vicarious liability, under which an employer is generally held responsible for the negligent acts of its employees committed within the course and scope of his or her employment. The Court of Appeals carefully traced the history and the intended purpose of the Good Samaritan Act and concluded that, as a private, for-profit ambulance company, it did not enjoy immunity under the Act because it did not qualify as a “volunteer ambulance and rescue squad.”

Maryland appellate courts recently have noted that the Good Samaritan Act and its interpretation is a developing area of the law. As the above discussion demonstrates, although the Act casts a wide net of immunity that would prohibit a monetary recovery, there are exceptions. If you or a loved one believe you were the victim of a medical mistake caused by an emergency responder – or any other healthcare provider – call our seasoned medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225.

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October 9, 2015

Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations – Don’t Wait Too Long to File Your Case

In order to encourage finality of potential claims – and to discourage the filing of claims after evidence has been lost and memories have faded – all states have enacted a “statute of limitations.” A statute of limitations is a law that sets forth the amount of time that a potential plaintiff has in which to file his or her case after the incident giving rise to the case occurs. If the case is not filed by the deadline, the plaintiff will forever be prohibited from bringing that claim. Accordingly, the importance of understanding the statute of limitations and keeping track of the deadline cannot be overstated.

Each state has its own statute of limitations. Additionally, in many states, a statute of limitations for one type of claim may be different than the statute of limitations for another type of claim. For example, a negligence case could have a three-year statute of limitations while a defamation case could have a one-year statute of limitations.

Maryland Medical Malpractice claims have their own statute of limitations, which is set forth in Courts & Judicial Proceedings § 5-109 of the Maryland Annotated Code. A copy of the Maryland medical malpractice statute of limitations provision can be found here. Under Maryland law – and with some limited exceptions – a potential medical malpractice plaintiff must file their lawsuit within the earlier of five years of the time of the injury or three years of the date the injury was discovered. This means that, conceivably, your medical malpractice claim could be extinguished before you ever realize you have one, i.e., if it takes you more than five years to realize that you have been injured by a medical mistake.

There are some statutory exceptions to Maryland’s medical malpractice statute of limitations. For example, the deadline to file a lawsuit is extended in cases in which the injured plaintiff was less than 16 years of age at the time of the malpractice. By way of a second example, the statute of limitations does not apply to medical malpractice cases in which a foreign object was negligently left inside of the injured plaintiff’s body.

In short, if you believe that you may have been the victim of a medical mistake in Maryland, you must act swiftly to preserve your rights. If you have a question about a potential medical malpractice case, call one of our attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White at 410-385-2225.

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October 2, 2015

Jury Awards $7.5 Million in Surgical Malpractice Case

This week, a North Carolina jury awarded $7.5 million to a gentleman whose botched colon surgery left him with severe and debilitating complications. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here. In June of 2010, the patient underwent surgery to remove a portion of his colon due to a potentially cancerous mass that had been found. It was alleged that when the surgeon connected the new ends of the colon together, there was a leak. The patient in this case became extremely ill following the surgery. He suffered from a prolonged period of low blood pressure as well as kidney failure, infection and internal bleeding. He also underwent two additional surgeries during which his physicians were unable to locate the source of the infection. A colonoscopy later that same year revealed a leak in the area where a portion of the colon had been resected. A fourth surgery was then performed to repair the leak and mitigate the resulting internal damage.

When a perforation occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, substances such as fecal matter, food and bacteria can leak in to the abdominal cavity which can cause infection, organ damage and even death. Perforations of the colon can happen on their own but, more commonly, occur during surgeries in the abdomen. Symptoms of a colon injury include fever, pain, increased heartbeat, increased respiratory rate and distension of the abdomen. Generally speaking, a perforated colon can be diagnosed using the CT Scan technology that is available today.

Often times, the defense in these types of cases is that the perforation – and the resultant leak – in and of itself is not a breach of the standard of acceptable medical care. While the truth of this defense depends on the circumstances, a good medical malpractice attorney can get around this argument by showing that a delay in diagnosing the perforation and leak resulted in unnecessary harm and damages.

Our medical malpractice attorneys at Silverman ,Thompson, Slutkin & White routinely handle cases of surgical malpractice and have successfully resolved cases involving perforations of gastrointestinal structures. If you or a loved one has been the victim of any type of surgical malpractice, call our litigators for a free consultation.

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September 23, 2015

Medical Malpractice Involving the Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat Lithium Toxicity

Lithium is an often-prescribed psychiatric medication used to treat select health conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression. Doctors have long understood that extended lithium intake can have long-term side effects most often effecting the kidneys and thyroid gland. Specifically, lithium can reduce the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine, leading to dilution and polyuria (excessive urination). Lithium is not metabolized and is excreted almost exclusively through the kidneys. Monitoring kidney function is therefore an essential component of ongoing lithium therapy.

The most common early symptoms of lithium toxicity are abdominal pain, loss of urinary control, constipation, weakness and tremors. Symptoms associated with moderate to severe lithium toxicity include an altered mental status associated with dysarthria (motor speech disorder affecting muscles in the mouth/face), ataxia (lack of muscle coordination affecting speech/walking/eye movements), diarrhea, nausea, shaking or trembling and impaired cognitive function. Chronic lithium users also are at a heightened risk for developing nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI), a form of diabetes characterized by excessive or uncontrolled urination. NDI is considered the most severe complication of lithium toxicity and patients with NDI must be closely monitored for dehydration due to their excretion of extraordinarily large volumes of urine. The combination of increasing levels of lithium and severe dehydration will, if not timely treated, result in acute toxicity of the kidney. Unfortunately, even after the acute toxicity is resolved, a significant number of patients suffer permanent neurologic damage.

When a patient on a lithium regimen presents with symptoms such as weakness, imbalance and urinary incontinence, the standard of acceptable medical care requires the treating doctor to appreciate and diagnose an acute presentation of developing lithium toxicity. Fast-tracked laboratory studies (bloodwork and urine) will quickly demonstrate the patient’s elevated lithium level and signal to the doctor to stop the lithium intake and start intravenous hydration. The failure to rapidly recognize these symptoms of lithium toxicity and reverse the process can have devastating impacts on the neurological function and overall future well-being of the patient.

The Maryland medical malpractice attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White have successfully resolved cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat lithium toxicity. If you or a loved one were the victim of this, or any other type of medical mistake, call us to discuss your potential case at (410) 385-2225.

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September 18, 2015

Medical Malpractice Involving Retained Foreign Objects

One of the most shockingly common types of medical malpractice occurs when a surgeon and his or her surgical team concludes a procedure without removing all of the foreign objects used on the patient during the surgery. Such objects may include sponges, clamps, gauze, surgical instruments and even needles. If a foreign object is left in the body after the surgery is completed, life-threatening conditions can – and often do – ensue. These objects can cause severe pain and often result in, among other things, significant infections and organ damage which can lead to death if not timely and appropriately recognized and removed. Of course, at a minimum, the negligent failure to remove all foreign objects from the body before closing the incision necessitates an additional painful surgery to remove the object which means additional hospitalization, increased medical bills and, sometimes, unnecessary lost wages.

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys understand that often the best way to pursue these types of cases is to show that the surgeon violated his or her own hospital’s policies, guidelines and procedures. Most hospitals and surgery centers have written policies that govern how to avoid leaving a foreign object inside the body, such as tracking the objects that go in and counting the objects as they are removed to ensure that none are left before the incision is closed. The pre and post-surgery count also should be documented in the patient’s medical records.

If you or a loved one were injured by a doctor’s negligent failure to remove all foreign objects prior to completing a surgery, call one of our seasoned medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225.

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September 11, 2015

Misdiagnosed Ulcer Results in $28 Million Jury Verdict in Baltimore City

At the conclusion of a three-week trial, a Baltimore City jury last week awarded $28 million to a 47 year-old man whose perforated ulcer went undiagnosed, resulting in significant complications and life-altering deteriorations in his health. The man had a history of Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. However, his Chron’s had not caused him any significant trouble since a surgical procedure in 2000.

In May of 2011, the patient presented to an area hospital with severe, burning left-sided pain radiating to his chest. Rather than rule out an upper gastrointestinal illness, the treating physician treated him for a flare-up of his Chron’s and discharged the patient thereafter. Some eight days later, the patient returned to the hospital with nearly identical symptoms and, again, the treating physicians failed to consider an upper gastrointestinal illness. As the result of the misdiagnosis, a duodenal ulcer was perforated. An ulcer is an open sore or lesion, usually found on the skin or mucous membrane areas of the body. A duodenal ulcer is a sore or lesion that occurs in the upper area of the small intestine.

The physicians decided to perform surgery on this patient’s abdomen to determine what was happening. During the surgery, the surgeon missed the perforated ulcer and, instead, removed a portion of the patient’s bowel. At the end of that procedure, the surgeon performed intestinal anastomosis, a surgical procedure to establish communication between two formerly distant portions of the intestine. However, the failure to address the perforated ulcer caused the intestinal anastomosis to break down, resulting in the need for dozens of future surgeries and further resection of the patient’s bowel. As the result of these physicians’ negligence, the patient suffers from significant health problems and can only take in nutrition through a feeding tube.

The jury’s award included $14 million in future medical and life care expenses, $8 million in pain and suffering and $1 million in past medical expenses. The award also included $5 million for loss of consortium – the damage caused to the patient’s marital relationship. The patient now will be able to afford the around-the-clock care that he requires.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a medical mistake – including a misdiagnoses or surgical error – call one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at (410) 385-2225.

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September 4, 2015

Egregiously Careless Medical Mistake Results In $21 Million Jury Verdict

Earlier this year, a Detroit jury awarded $21 million to the family of a woman who died following a brain surgery that she was never supposed to undergo. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here. The 81 year-old presented to the hospital in January of 2012 for treatment of her bilateral jaw displacement (dislocated jaw). Unfortunately, upon her admission, hospital staff mixed up her CT Scan results with those of another patient, causing the doctors to believe that this woman had bleeding on her brain requiring emergency surgery.

Doctors immediately took her to the operating room where they drilled five holes into her head and remove the right side of her skull. Upon surgically reaching the woman’s brain, no bleed was found. Because of the woman’s age and health, she was unable to recover from the brain surgery and died after 60 days on life support. There also was an allegation in the lawsuit that the hospital attempted to cover up its mistake. The plaintiffs’ attorney was quoted in the article as saying that this procedure was “something that can be done in a dentist chair [but that] instead they took off the right side of her head, and killed her.” Interestingly, the jury at one point during deliberations sent a note to the judge asking whether they could demand that the hospital apologize for its “wrongful and outrageous conduct.” The hospital vowed to appeal.

The unfortunate lesson to be learned from this case is that these types of medical errors can happen to anyone. If you or a loved one were the victim of a medical mistake – whether it is obvious such as this one or subtle – give us a call for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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August 31, 2015

Federal Judge Awards $3.2 Million in Malpractice Case Involving Negligently Performed Shoulder Surgery

Not all medical malpractice lawsuits are decided by a jury. In some circumstances – such as those in which the Defendant doctor is an employee of the federal government – a judge decides whether the physician breached the standard of care and, if so, how much money to award. This is called a “bench trial.” In a recent bench trial in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, a Federal Judge awarded the victim of a medical mistake $3.2 million. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

In the Arizona case it was alleged that the Plaintiff – a board certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty training in spine surgery – consulted his primary care physician for a shoulder injury he sustained while lifting weights. That physician referred him for an MRI of the shoulder. It was determined that the Plaintiff would require rotator cuff surgery and so he was referred to the Defendant-doctor, an employee of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, for the procedure. The MRI also revealed what was interpreted by the Radiologist to be a soft tissue mass in the shoulder. The Defendant, however, interpreted the MRI to show type of mass that was fluid-based “containing joint debris.” The Defendant told the Plaintiff that he would remove the fluid during the rotator cuff surgery. He did not, however, discuss any other type of mass with the Plaintiff and did not seek consent to remove any other type of mass.

When he opened the Plaintiff’s shoulder, the Defendant discovered that the object on the MRI was in fact a soft tissue mass, not a fluid pseudocapsule as he had expected. The Defendant nonetheless decided to excise (remove) the mass which was later determined by the pathology department to be benign. In the course of removing the mass, the Defendant caused permanent and irreparable damage to the Plaintiff’s axillary nerve which enervates the anterior deltoid. As a result, the Plaintiff experienced significant atrophy of his anterior deltoid muscle and lost the capacity to perform instrumented spine surgery, leaving him with a significant future wage loss.

The judge awarded the Plaintiff $2,900,000 for his lost wages and $300,000 for pain and suffering, for a total damages award of $3,200,000. Although bench trials are generally not favored by medical malpractice plaintiffs, in this case it appears that the Plaintiff was adequately compensated for his losses.

At STSW, we have successfully resolved numerous cases involving negligently-performed surgeries and also have experience trying bench trials. If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of a surgical mistake, call us for a free consultation at (410) 385 – 2225.

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August 28, 2015

A Medical Malpractice Plaintiff’s Best Friend: The Doctor/Hospital’s Own Clinical Practice Guidelines

No matter the jurisdiction, most jurors who are seated to hear a medical malpractice case/trial carry with them some inherent biases. In fact, it has been our experience that many jurors and inclined to give doctors a “pass” in certain circumstances because the doctor was trying to help the patient, and certainly not trying to deliberately hurt the patient. Moreover, many jurors have family and friends who are in the health care industry and thus they are naturally biased in favor of those individuals, no doubt after hearing the “horror” stories of allegedly unfounded medical malpractice claims. As a result, many jurors will actually scrutinize the Plaintiff’s case for any reason that they can find to blame the Plaintiff for the injury or adverse result. These inherent biases can often be difficult to overcome in a week or two-week trial. One way to combat these biases is to use the defendant doctor or defendant hospital’s own policies and guidelines against them.

The majority of hospitals and/or physicians in today’s health care industry have developed clinical practice guidelines for how to treat certain conditions. These guidelines give recommendations about examinations to perform when confronted with certain signs and symptoms, certain tests to perform, certain medications a patient should receive and the timeframe within which all of these things should occur so as to provide to the best care to a patient and/or rule out potentially life-threatening conditions. For example, when a patient comes into a hospital complaining of a sudden onset of chest pain, most hospitals follow a cardiovascular guideline, taking steps to rule out the potentially life-threatening conditions like a heart attack, pulmonary embolism (blood clot to lung) and an aortic dissection. Such steps include performing an EKG, ordering a CT scan of the Chest, drawing blood to perform serial laboratory studies to look at certain markers. In short, these guidelines are adopted by hospitals and health care providers to try and prevent common errors. The guidelines are premised upon the belief that health care providers are human and injuries are inevitable without checklists and systems in place to prevent the same.

During the discovery period of any medical negligence case against a doctor or hospital, we always inquire whether any applicable clinical practice guidelines exist with respect to the care and treatment of our clients. Whether the case deals with alleged negligence against an emergency room physician, a consulting specialist, a radiologist or a nurse, guidelines typically exist.

In some instances, the guidelines are actually not generated by the health care provider or hospital itself, but instead, generated by the professional organization that provides certification and/or licensure for these health care providers. For example, many cardiologists are members of the American College of Cardiology. That entity routinely publishes written guidelines on how to treat patients with certain conditions. These kinds of guidelines are equally as effective. If we, as the attorneys for the injured party, can show the defendant doctor that he/she did not follow a guideline of his/her institution or the guideline published by an professional association that they are part of, the doctor often time has difficulty explaining why he/she chose not to follow something that was clearly designed to prevent errors and/or, even worse, was unfamiliar with the guidelines as some physicians are. It is these two latter situations where we believe we are often able to overcome the jury’s preconceived biases against our clients and demonstrate to them that the doctor’s care was negligent.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, call our law firm at 410-385-2225 for a free consultation.

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