In November 1993, the decedent presented to the defendant's office and was evaluated for symptoms of depression. His liver was grossly enlarged and liver enzyme tests showed significant elevation, suggesting chronic alcohol abuse.
The defendant diagnosed the decedent with depression and gave a prescription for Paxil and Xanex, as needed, for tremens. The decedent died one month later while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Plaintiff alleged that the firm's client, an internal medicine specialist, failed to diagnose that the decedent was an alcoholic and in need of treatment and failed to treat the decedent's alcoholic condition. Plaintiff contended that the decedent suffered from delirium tremens while in Mexico, and died after developing an arrhythmia.
The defense successfully argued that the defendant's diagnosis of depression was a reasonable diagnosis given the circumstances surrounding the decedent's presentment in the defendant's office. The defense also contended that several other explanations for the decedent's death were more likely than delirium tremens.
The plaintiff asked the jury to award $3.4 million, but the jury returned a verdict for the defense.