Plaintiff v. Defendant Orthopedic Surgeon and Group

Synopsis:

Donohue Brown’s Mark Burden and Erin Calandriello successfully defended an orthopedic surgeon accused of deviating from standard of care in a case involving a woman who died approximately a month after undergoing hip replacement surgery.

The Plaintiff, a 78-year-old woman, had hip replacement surgery on July 12, 2012, and the Defendant orthopedic surgeon put the Plaintiff on Coumadin, an anticoagulant, after the surgery to reduce deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

Three days after surgery, the Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital and admitted to a rehabilitation facility, where she recuperated for approximately two weeks.  During that time, she remained on Coumadin, and her INR level was regularly monitored.  Afterwards, she was discharged to her son’s home with orders for a home healthcare agency to provide skilled nursing assistance and physical therapy.  The Plaintiff’s attending physician at the rehabilitation facility also ordered for her INR to be checked within a few days of her discharge from the rehabilitation facility. 

A few weeks later, on August 16, 2012, the Plaintiff moved back into her own apartment and was doing well.  The following morning, when her son arrived to take her to the one-month follow-up appointment with the Defendant, she had developed a pretty bad headache and did not feel well enough to make her follow-up appointment with the Defendant.  Therefore, her son called the Defendant’s office and cancelled the Plaintiff’s appointment.  The Defendant spoke with the Plaintiff that morning and she advised him of her headache.  He asked her to stop the Coumadin and told her that if she did not feel better, to go to the emergency room.  She did not have any neurologic complaints or symptoms.  After the Plaintiff spoke with the Defendant, she took a nap for a few hours and felt better after she woke up.  She told her son that her headache was almost gone. 

Sometime during the early morning hours of the next day, the Plaintiff fell and hit her head.  A few hours later, she was found unconscious by her niece, lying face-down with a large hematoma on her right forehead.  She was taken to the emergency department and was diagnosed with a large subdural hematoma and subsequently passed away.  Her INR level was elevated at 3.9 when it was checked in the emergency department.

The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendant should have immediately sent her to the ER when she indicated she had a headache, and he also should have inquired about her INR.

Donohue Brown argued that the Defendant did not deviate from the standard of care, and that the cause of death was a subdural hematoma from the fall, un-related to the Coumadin.

The Plaintiff asked for $2.2 million.  After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for just over an hour before delivering a defense verdict for all Defendants.