A California jury has awarded $8.5 million to the widow of a man who died on the day a surgeon was going to discharge him from the hospital. Because of limits on medical malpractice cases, the woman probably will receive only $1.6 million of that amount.
The 49-year-old man broke six ribs in a motorcycle accident in 2002. At the trial, his wife’s attorneys argued that a doctor should have more closely monitored him after x-rays showed he had one gallon of liquid backed up in his stomach four hours before he died, and he had previously been resuscitated. The man died after choking on his own vomit.
I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland involving premature hospital discharge / improper discharge from a hospital. These cases have ranged from failure to properly diagnose and treat infections / sepsis, failure to diagnose and treat pulmonary embolisms, failure to properly diagnose and treat surgical complications, failure to diagnose and treat heart attacks, failure to diagnose and properly treat brain injuries, etc. Sometimes these cases arise soon before discharge or right after. These cases are always tragic because the patient and family trust the doctor and hospital to do the right thing and, as a result, they are usually given a false sense of security in the planning of the discharge or the actual discharge itself. Many times, the patient and/or family’s concerns are dismissed and they are reassured that everything will be fine and the patient will get better. A death within days of a planned or actual discharge should always be carefully investigated.