Plaintiff v. Defendant Hospital

Synopsis:

DBMS attorneys Stetson Atwood and Ashley Dus successfully defend a hospital in a medical negligence trial in which the plaintiff asked the jury to award $16 million in damages.

The decedent, a 50-year-old male, presented to the emergency department of defendant hospital in the early morning hours of October 1, 2015. His chief complaint was chest pain. He had a past medical history significant for coronary artery disease and had a prior heart attack in early 2014, which resulted in stent placement at another hospital. The patient’s pain resolved when he arrived to the emergency department. An EKG taken in the emergency department was normal and not consistent with an acute heart attack. An emergency medicine physician ordered a repeat EKG and cardiac enzymes to further evaluate the patient. The repeat EKG was normal. Ultimately, the patient was admitted to the hospital for observation in the telemetry unit. The patient’s primary care physician entered an order requesting a cardiology consultation.

At the time of admission to the telemetry unit at approximately 7:00 a.m., the plan was for a third EKG to be performed, repeat cardiac enzymes to be completed, and for the patient to undergo a Lexiscan stress test. A third EKG was completed at 10:08 a.m. and was noted to be normal. The cardiac enzymes were marginally elevated. The patient did not have any chest pain throughout the day. He did not have any chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or vomiting throughout the day. The stress test was completed at approximately 2:30 p.m. and was normal.  

The cardiologist spoke with the patient and his wife. The cardiologist discussed with the patient the results of the tests performed that day. The cardiologist testified that he told the patient that it would be reasonable to have a cardiac angiogram, but that it would also be reasonable for the patient to follow up as an outpatient with his cardiologist. The patient’s wife did not recall any mention of the possibility of a cardiac angiogram. The patient was discharged from defendant hospital at approximately 5:30 p.m. on October 1, 2015. The patient woke up with chest pain during the early morning hours of October 2, 2015, and ultimately passed away. No autopsy was performed.

Plaintiff alleges that on October 1, 2015, defendant hospital, through the conduct of the cardiologist, deviated from the standard of care by failing to diagnose the patient with acute coronary syndrome and by failing to perform a cardiac angiogram in a timely manner, resulting in his fatal cardiac arrest the next day.

The defense argued that the cardiologist acted appropriately by choosing to perform a nuclear stress test in light of marginally elevated cardiac enzymes. The stress test was normal and did not reveal a blockage in the patient’s coronary arteries. The defense further argued that the standard of care did not require the cardiologist to perform an angiogram in light of the patient’s stable condition. Finally, the defense argued that the plaintiff could not prove what caused the patient’s death as there was no autopsy performed on the patient.

Following a week-long trial, the plaintiff asked for $16,000,000 in damages. The jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning a verdict for the defense. 
Practice

Professional Liability - Hospitals