Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A New Hampshire jury this month awarded $5 million to a woman after several procedures by her ophthalmologist left her legally blind.  The woman had been a patient of this physician for a period of eight years.  She was being treated for age-related macular degeneration, a condition that usually responds well to treatment, though it can reduce the quality of a person’s vision.

Following steroid injections, the patient lost much of her vision in her left eye.  Then, after she lost vision in her right eye, the right eye had to be surgically removed because it had shrunken significantly as the result of the treatments that had failed.  A glass eye was inserted in its place.  The lawsuit alleged that the physician injected the right eye with a steroid that was too aggressive and rapidly led to glaucoma, pain and ultimately blindness and the removal of the eye.  Because this patient also had a history of glaucoma, the use of a steroid for early, age-related macular degeneration was alleged to be in violation of acceptable medical care.  The complaint also alleged that this particular physician did not have the appropriate training to be performing these procedures.

The jury’s verdict included an award of nearly $4.7 million to the woman for her pain, suffering, mental anguish and future medical needs, and $350,000 to her husband for loss of companionship.

At the conclusion of a recent medical malpractice trial, the jury awarded $8.5 million to an 8 year-old boy who suffered a catastrophic neurological injury while a patient at a pediatric nursing home. The boy was a twin and, while in utero, the two brothers suffered from “twin-twin transfusion syndrome” in which blood passes unevenly between the fetuses while in the placenta. The brother did not survive but the patient in this case pulled through, albeit with negligible neurological deficits.

Because he was born pre-term, he was placed on a ventilator. It was expected that he would be off the ventilator by age 5 and that he would subsequently be able to walk and use his fine motor skills. However, when a nurse at his pediatric care facility entered his room, he was found to be gray in color and unresponsive. It was determined that his tracheotomy tube had come out of its place and that his pulse oximeter – which would have alerted staff to the issue – had come off of his foot and the machine had been turned off. As the result of the incident, the boy suffered a catastrophic anoxic brain injury and will require institutional care for all of his daily needs for the remainder of his life. The principal theory of the defense throughout the litigation was that the dislodging of the tracheotomy tube did not cause or change the boy’s long-term care needs, which in their opinion were caused solely by the injuries he sustained in utero from the twin-twin transfusion syndrome. Just prior to trial, however, the defense conceded liability, resulting in a trial on the issue of damages (compensation) only.

The jury’s award included $100,000 for past pain and suffering, $310,000 for future pain and suffering, more than $60,000 for past medical and $8 million to cover future medical expenses for the child’s life-long need of care. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White have successfully resolved a number of medical malpractice cases involving devastating brain injury. If you or a loved one was the victim of a similar, or any other medical mistake, call us today at 410-382-5698.

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.

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.

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.”

After a two-week trial this month, a Pennsylvania jury awarded more than $12 million to a 53 year-old man who became paralyzed after emergency room physicians delayed in recognizing and treating his spinal epidural abscess. According to the National Institute of Health, a spinal epidural abscess is defined as a rare disorder caused by infection in the area between the bones of the spine and the membranes covering the spinal cord. Although not always able to be determined, the source is often bacteria that spread from other infections in the body, such as a urinary tract infection.

In the Pennsylvania case, the patient presented to Delaware County Memorial Hospital in June of 2011 complaining of neck pain and tingling in his left arm. His symptoms worsened overnight; he developed a fever, was having difficulty walking and was unable to urinate. These are classic symptoms of an infectious process in the spine. An infectious disease specialist was appropriately consulted the following day and a cervical epidural abscess in the neck was suspected. The infectious disease specialist ordered a stat (immediate) MRI but, unfortunately, the hospital Radiologist incorrectly interpreted the results as showing no signs of abscess or spinal cord compression. Accordingly, transfer to a facility with the proper capabilities to care for this patient was delayed an additional day and, in the meantime, his condition continued to deteriorate. By the time the accuracy of the radiologist’s reading of the stat MRI was questioned, the damage done to the patient’s spinal cord had become irreversible.

As a result of the delay in diagnosis and treatment, the patient became paralyzed in the arms and legs, lost bowel and bladder control as well as sexual function. He is no longer able to complete the most mundane of daily tasks – such as clothing, feeding or washing himself – without substantial assistance from his wife and others. Of course, he also is no longer able to work. The verdict included a $500,000 award to the patient’s wife for loss of consortium.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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