A recent jury found in favor of a misdiagnosis victim’s surviving children,, to the surprise of the defendant physician. Medical malpractice allegedly occurred in treatment of the thirty-eight year old victim after an emergency sports injury. Likely in part to the fact that the victim was a single parent to five young children, the jury awarded $6.4 million. This is believed to be the largest medical malpractice award in Pennsylvania’s history. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have extensive experience in handling misdiagnosis and wrongful death cases and obtaining the maximum damage awards for our clients.
A few years ago, the victim abruptly passed out while playing basketball with friends. An ambulance arrived and transported him to the emergency department. Although all of his symptoms were consistent with a heart attack, the attending physician diagnosed him with walking pneumonia without performing any tests. He was then released later that day after being given Motrin, an over-the-counter drug.
While participating in a similar sporting activity three months later, the victim collapsed again and was rushed to the emergency department. This time he had suffered a massive heart attack that resulted from a complete arterial blockage. The heart attack was so severe that the hospital had to chemically induce him into a pharmacological coma. He soon after passed away while in the coma.
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Upon investigation, the coroner discovered that the victim’s initial visit to the emergency room was also caused by a heart attack. Thus, that attending physician misdiagnosed the victim. If the physician had performed the routine Electrocardiogram (ECG), which would have been appropriate considering his symptoms, this secondary fatal heart attack could have been prevented. It was this misdiagnosis that prevented the appropriate initial treatment and ultimately led to the victim’s death.
To be successful in a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must establish: (a) a duty existed between the parties, (b) the defendant breached that duty, and (c) that breach specifically caused (d) damages to the plaintiff. Generally, if the jury determines a misdiagnosis occurred, each of these elements will be satisfied. In this particular case, the plaintiff was easily able to establish each of them.
A $6.4 million damage award is extremely large, especially considering no punitive damages were included in this award. The verdict did include $5.5 million for loss of tutelage, guidance, and moral upbringing. The sympathetic nature of the young father of five children succumbing to a very preventable death in part explains the size of this award A large award is explicable in party by the fact that any judge or jury would likely feel extreme sympathy towards the five young children who lost the companionship of a parent. But it is also so large because of a systemic problem at this hospital’s emergency department with failing to perform routine tests on its patients.
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The one peculiar aspect of this medical malpractice lawsuit is the fact that it was decided by a jury after being fully litigated. An overwhelming majority of civil lawsuits are settled long before the jury has an opportunity to render a decision. Settlement could possibly be explained by a situation where the victim’s family refused to settle the lawsuit either because of insufficient monetary offers by the defendant, or a desire to serve as a catalyst to emergency department reform. If this misdiagnosis was really the result of failed protocol of the emergency department, then this large settlement will very likely save many lives in the future.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice occurs hundreds of thousands of times per year. While physicians often perform exceptional work, they are prone to mistakes and negligence as is everyone else. If you or a family member has suffered an injury immediately following medical care, it is important you inquire with a medical malpractice attorney (pintas.com) to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve, and no one else is subjected to the same negligence.