Plaintiff V. Defendant Internist/Cardiologist

Synopsis:

DBMS secured a verdict for the defense in a case in which medical negligence was alleged after a woman with multiple health conditions died after suffering a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

At issue was a 43-year-old woman who was a long-term lupus sufferer, smoker and asthmatic, followed by the defendant physician, on a primary care basis, for over a decade. In late December 2005, she began complaining to her doctor of shortness of breath, malaise, fatigue and arm and shoulder pain. In July 2006, she died as a result of cardiac arrhythmia alleged by plaintiff to have been caused by a 90 percent occlusion of the left anterior descending artery.

The plaintiff’s estate claimed the defendant doctor deviated from the standard of care by failing to order a stress test after the woman presented with those specific symptoms.

DBMS presented an internal medicine expert who testified that the patient did not have criteria for coronary artery disease. The patient’s young age, a non-specific family history, normal cholesterol, and normal blood pressures did not place the patient at increased risk for coronary artery disease. Further, her non-specific complaints (shortness of breath, fatigue and arm pain) were not classic symptoms of acute coronary syndrome, necessitating a stress test. The patient never complained to the defendant of chest pain. As a result, there was no reason for the doctor to send the patient for a stress test.

DBMS also presented the testimony of a cardiologist to demonstrate that the fatal arrhythmia was caused by an enlarged heart and dilated cardiomyopathy as found on autopsy. The defendant’s cardiology expert also testified that a stress test, even if performed, would not have revealed any abnormalities, as the patient had likely developed collateral vessels around the 90% blockage, keeping the heart sufficiently perfused. The collateral vessels also explained the lack of classic signs/symptoms of the blockage in the left anterior descending artery.

The plaintiff asked for $1.8 million, however the jury returned a verdict for the defense in less than two hours.