St. Louis Couple Win Over $6 Million after Untreated Infection Caused Stroke

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on a recent jury award of $6.4 million, which went to a man and his wife after he suffered a stroke due to an untreated infection. The hospital, SSM DePaul Medical Group, and doctor, Joseph Thompson, were both named as defendants.

The plaintiffs, Jeffrey and Connie Schneider, first went to SSM DePaul in 1996, when Mr. Schneider was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse by Dr. Thompson. The condition causes a valve of the heart to not close tightly enough, potentially causing blood to flow backward into the heart.

The Schneider’s alleged that Dr. Thompson negligently failed to order any follow-up echocardiograms after 2001, the last time his mitral valve prolapse was monitored. In addition, they allege that somehow, after 2002, the condition disappeared completely from Dr. Thompson’s medical chart for Schneider, and that he never referred him to a cardiologist.

In April 2007 Schneider was struck with extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Eventually, the pain became so severe he told his wife he thought he was dying. Dr. Thompson referred him to other doctors for tests but again failed to send him to a cardiologist to conduct any tests examining his heart and mitral valve prolapse.

One month later, Connie called Dr. Thompson and requested that her husband be admitted to a hospital right away because of his deteriorating condition. The physician, however, advised her that they should wait for test results to come back from the hematologist.

On June 12, Schneider suffered a severe stroke as a result of a buildup of bacteria in his heart valve. He now has extremely restricted use of his right side body, sustained damage to his short-term memory, and has difficulty processing language. He has not been able to return to work as an IT specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank since his stroke.

The Schneider’s alleged that Dr. Thompson was negligent in his care for Schneider by failing to refer him to a cardiologist, removing his condition from his medical charts, and failing to admit him to the hospital in time to prevent his infection and consequent stroke. The jury agreed, and awarded them $6.4 million. It is one of the largest medical malpractice awards in Missouri history.

In related news, lawmakers in California are finally turning their attention toward the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA), which demolished the ability of many California residents to file medical malpractice lawsuits. When it was enacted, MICRA was an attempt to solve the malpractice insurance problems of the time through imposing restrictions on the types of lawsuits patients could bring against doctors and the amounts they could be awarded if they won.

As stated, the Act was put in place in 1975, placing caps on non-economic damages at $250,000. Not once since then has this amount been raised in accordance with inflation, higher costs of living, and the surge in medical care expenses. It is now extremely outdated (if it had inflation-indexed, the cap would now be at 1.1 million), a fact that legislators are finally recognizing. Consumer Watchdog is currently in the midst of creating a ballot initiative it hopes to place before voters in the November 2014 elections, though it says it will not do so if legislators reform MICRA this summer.

New initiatives propose the cap be lifted at least to 1.1 million, and permanently index it to inflation so it may keep up with the times. Former California Assemblyman Barry Keene was the man who initially drafted MICRA. He told the LA Times that he proposed an inflation-index way back in 1975, assuming it would pass routinely. Instead, lobbyists succeeded in striking down the index, and it was signed into law by then-governor Jerry Brown.

As a result, victims of malpractice, many of whom will require 24-hour medical care for the rest of their lives as a result of medical negligence, routinely have their awards slashed by hundreds of thousands if not millions. One study found that damage awards to injured plaintiffs under one year of age were slashed in 71% of cases.

Victims are now largely unable to find lawyers because the cap would cause them to lose money pursuing the case. The only beneficiaries of MICRA are insurance companies, and not even doctors or hospitals are seeing those benefits, meaning the public certainly isn’t either.

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm affirm that MICRA is only causing deserving plaintiffs, those victims that need compensation the most, to receive nothing, and it is time to bring the Act into the 21st century.