Biggs v. Defendant Cardiothoracic Surgeons

  • Circuit Court of Cook County (Honorable Donald Suriano)09/16/2013
    Counsel: Sherri M. Arrigo
    Client: Defendant Cardiothoracic Surgeons
    Outcome: Verdict in Favor of Defendants

Synopsis:

On September 16, 2013, a Cook Country jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants cardiothoracic surgeons represented by Sherri M. Arrigo and Tanya E. Springman.

Plaintiff's decedent, a 53-year old married homemaker and mother of eleven children, was admitted to University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center after suffering an acute heart attack with papillary muscle rupture and "wide open" mitral valve regurgitation. She had no previous medical history except untreated hypertension.

On September 11, 2008, the defendant cardiothoracic surgeon, assisted by the defendant cardiothoracic surgery fellow, performed open heart surgery, including coronary artery bypass graft and mitral valve replacement. The patient was stable in the immediate post-operative period; she was awake and following commands although she remained intubated on a ventilator. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants prematurely removed the patient's endotracheal tube and ventilator on post-operative day 2 without performing an adequate spontaneous breathing trial. About 5 minutes after the tube was removed, the decedent experienced respiratory distress and she was re-intubated. Subsequently, she had a cardiac arrest and was found to have anoxic brain injury; she died on September 17, 2008.

The defense argued that the patient was appropriately weaned from the ventilator and underwent a successful spontaneous breathing trial within the standard of care prior to extubation. The plaintiff's expert admitted on cross-examination that 5% to 15% of patients who pass an appropriate spontaneous breathing trial nonetheless fail extubation. The defense maintained that she did not suffer any permanent injury as a result of the extubation as there was no delay in reintubation and no evidence of sustained hypoxia during the time in question. The defense argued that the patient had a 20% risk of dying in the perioperative period despite the best care.

In closing argument, plaintiff's counsel asked the jury to award $6.5 million. After deliberating only 40 minutes, including lunch, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants