Tenuta v. Defendant Cardiac Electro-Physiologist, Defendant Cardiologist and Cardiology Practice Group, and Defendant Hospital

  • 02/08/2015
    Client: Defendant Defendant Cardiologist and Cardiology Practice Group
    Outcome: Verdict in Favor of the Defendants

Synopsis:

On October 7, 2014, a Cook County jury returned a verdict in favor of the firm's clients, a cardiologist and cardiology group represented by DBMS. 

After the patient, 76, was admitted to the co-defendant hospital in July 2002 for workup of a syncopal episode, an angiography performed on July 22 revealed 100% occlusion of two coronary arteries and two substantial blockages in a third coronary artery. A quadruple coronary artery bypass graft surgery was performed on July 24. The patient subsequently developed postop complications involving multiple arrhythmias, respiratory insufficiency, and mucus plugging, resulting in several re-intubations over the next 2.5 weeks.  On Aug. 11, his condition had improved enough for him to be transferred from the ICU to a step-down unit, and a cardiac electrophysiology study and ablation procedure was scheduled to be performed on Aug.  12. 

However, the patient experienced a decline in his respiratory condition on Aug. 12.  The defendant, a cardiologist who as assigned to the patient’s care that week, examined him and determined his condition was stable enough to undergo the procedure in the electrophysiology lab.  A co-defendant cardiac electro-physiologist examined the patient in the electrophysiology lab, where his condition was deteriorating with recurrent rapid SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) rhythms and oxygen saturation levels down into the 80s.  The co-defendant cardiac electro-physiologist consulted with the defendant cardiologist, his partners, and the pulmonologist on the case, after which the decision was made to proceed with the cardiac ablation procedure in the hopes of correcting two of the patient's three arrhythmias.  The ablation procedure was successful in stopping these  two  rhythm  disturbances, but  the patient developed  increasing  respiratory  distress requiring re-intubation that evening in the ICU.  Throughout this hospitalization, he had also been treated for pneumonia.  On Aug. 13, he was diagnosed with recurrent sepsis, his oxygen saturation levels dropped into the 30s and 40s for 45 minutes before a mucus plug could be removed, and an emergency bedside bronchoscopy was performed, but he suffered permanent neurological injuries. 

The patient remained hospitalized for another month and continued to suffer recurrent mucus plugging, difficulty controlling secretions, and pneumonia.  On Sept. 13, he was transferred to a nursing/rehab facility, where he remained for several months. The patient was hospitalized another twenty times over the next six years, primarily for recurrent respiratory issues, until his death at age 83 on April 9, 2009.  His estate sought damages for wrongful death as well as survival pain & suffering and loss of normal life; he was survived by his wife and four adult children.  The estate contended that the defendants failed  to  adequately evaluate the patient’s respiratory instability prior to the cardiac ablation procedure, they were negligent in failing to cancel or postpone the ablation procedure, the co-defendant cardiac electro-physiologist failed to have an anesthesiologist present to manage the patient's airway during the ablation, and the co-defendant cardiac electro-physiologist was an apparent agent of the co-defendant hospital.  The defense denied all allegations.

Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury to award $4.75 million dollars in damages.  The jury found in favor of the defendants.