Potrawski v. Defendant Emergency Room Physician and Group

  • Circuit Court of Cook County, IL (Judge Lorna E. Propes)05/10/2013
    Client: Defendant Emergency Room Physician and Group
    Outcome: Verdict in Favor of Defendant

Synopsis:

On February 13, 2008, plaintiff’s decedent Richard Potrawski was brought to the emergency room of a local hospital, after having slipped and fallen on ice. Potrawski suffered a head injury, with a contusion above his right eye. He was on Coumadin.

The emergency room physician ordered a CT scan of the patient’s brain. The CT scan revealed a 1 centimeter subdural hematoma, as reported to the emergency room physician around 2:40 p.m. that afternoon. As the local hospital did not have a neurosurgeon on staff, the emergency room physician contacted several area trauma centers staffed with neurosurgery services. A conversation occurred between the emergency room physician and a neurointensivist at a major university medical center in Chicago. The neurointensivist instructed the emergency room doctor to obtain the patient’s coagulation status, start one unit of fresh frozen plasma, and transfer the patient.

Although the order for the fresh frozen plasma (intended to reverse the patient’s coagulation status), was processed at 2:50 p.m., the one unit of fresh frozen plasma did not arrive at the emergency room floor until approximately 4:40 p.m. Nurses requested an ambulance for transfer around 3:50 p.m., approximately one hour after the emergency room doctor’s call with the neurointensivist.

The ambulance did not arrive to transport the patient until 5:20 p.m. As the emergency room physician and nursing staff were awaiting the ambulance’s arrival at the local hospital when the fresh frozen plasma arrived at the emergency room, the physician determined to hold off on providing the fresh frozen plasma given the pending transfer. When the ambulance arrived, the emergency room physician instructed that the one unit of fresh frozen plasma be transported with the patient to the university-based trauma center.

Upon arrival at the university-based trauma center around 6:40 p.m., no neurosurgeon nor a neurointensivist saw the plaintiff’s decedent. The patient acutely decompensated around 8:00 p.m. that evening, and despite surgery being undertaken to evacuate the hematoma around 9:00 p.m. that evening, the plaintiff’s decedent did not recover. Mr. Potrawski died on February 24, 2008.

The plaintiff contended that the emergency room physician was professionally negligent in failing to expedite the patient’s CT scan ordered shortly after the patient’s arrival that afternoon around 12:30 p.m. The plaintiff also contended that once the results of the CT scan were made available around 2:40 p.m., the emergency room physician deviated from the standard of care in failing to expedite the order for the one unit of fresh frozen plasma, as well as the emergency transport from the local hospital to the university-based trauma center.

The defense contended that the emergency room physician’s care complied with the standard of care, there were no delays in the treatment provided in the emergency room, and that the emergency room physician’s care did not cause Mr. Potrawski’s death.

The plaintiff’s attorney requested an award of $5 million on behalf of Mr. Potrawski’s family. The jury returned its verdict for the defense in approximately 45 minutes.