Sullivan v. Defendant Hospital, Cardiologist, and Cardiology Group

  • Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Washington)05/14/2008
    Client: Defendant Cardiology Group
    Outcome: Defense Verdict

Synopsis:

In May, 2001 the 39-year-old plaintiff went to his chiropractor stating that he believed he “popped a rib” while playing golf the previous day. Plaintiff also complained of having chest pains the previous evening.

The chiropractor would not treat the plaintiff until a cardiologist had evaluated him. Plaintiff went to the cardiologist the same day and tests were performed at the hospital’s ER to rule out a heart attack. After several tests, a chest x-ray revealed a 4.5 centimeter calcified mass, which the doctors described as an incidental finding. Plaintiff denied he was ever informed of the mass or that he was to follow-up with the doctor within 14 days.

The printed discharge instructions contained errors, in telling the plaintiff to follow up with his family doctor. There was no mention of the mass in the discharge instructions and plaintiff had no knowledge of the mass. Three years later in a visit to the cardiologist complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing, the cardiologist opened the plaintiff’s chart and found the x-ray report. Defendant cardiologist claims never to have previously seen the report.

The tumor had grown from 4.5 centimeters to 19 centimeters and accelerated from a Stage I or II to Stage IV. Plaintiff underwent surgery for the removal of the tumor and portions of his lung and other organs it affected. Plaintiff had a reduced life expectancy.

Defendant cardiologist denied the ER ever informed him of the mass and that he had never seen the x-ray report. Records showing the doctor’s “two check mark” system indicated otherwise.

Plaintiff contended the hospital was negligent in informing him of the mass, failing to confirm he understood the significance of the finding, failing to inform the cardiologist of the finding, and failing to print our proper discharge instructions.

Defense for the hospital argued that, based on custom and practice, the plaintiff would have been told about the finding, the cardiologist was informed via telephone and the report was delivered to the correct doctor.

The jury deliberated approximately five hours before delivering a not guilty on all defendants.