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Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice News

We are looking at a birth injury case in Rhode Island which has given us occasion to look at medical malpractice verdicts and settlements in Rhode Island.  This is just for general information.

  • 2019, Rhode Island: $6,000,000 Settlement. This is just a tragic maternal death. A 21-year-old woman was expecting her first child. Her prenatal course was normal, and she arrived at the hospital to deliver her child a week after the due date. Her labor and delivery team planned for her to undergo cervical ripening by administering Misoprostol before inducing labor. However, Misoprostol was not approved for cervical ripening and there could be potential for serious complications to occur. A first-year resident gave the first dose of Misoprostol to the woman. At that time, the attending physician, who was not employed by the hospital, was at home but available via telephone. The woman’s contraction patterns became more frequent and intense shortly after receiving Misoprostol. The attending physician told the resident that she could only give Misoprostol if the contractions became irregular and infrequently. Despite the woman’s contractions being more frequent and consistent, the resident administered a second dose. The woman’s uterus contracted intensely. Fetal bradycardia developed and her cervix enlarged rapidly. Her cervix and uterus tore during the delivery. The baby was successfully resuscitated. However, the cervical and uterine tears caused a significant post-partum hemorrhage. The labor and delivery team attempted to save her, but she died from shock and multi-organ failure. Her son thankfully survived without any residual injuries. The woman’s family alleged that the hospital failed to properly oversee their resident and the resident negligently administered a second dose of Misoprostol. They claim that the woman would have survived had there been no second dose. The case would eventually settle for $6,000,000.
  • 2019, Rhode Island: $36,330,000 Verdict. A 58-year-old woman visited a hospital with back pain and a recent MRSA skin infection. During her second visit, an MRI revealed signs of an infection. However, the radiologist interpreted the MRI as normal. She returned two days later, with sepsis. The woman was hospitalized for an extended period because the hospital staff failed to diagnose and treat her infection. She ultimately underwent amputations to both her legs below-the-knee and eight fingers. The woman also suffered respiratory failure, kidney failure, and a heart attack that disrupted her circulation to her brain. The jury awarded $36,330,000.

Nike has just signed their first professional athlete with cerebral palsy, cross-country runner Justin Gallegos. They signed the University of Oregon junior to a three-year contract.  A moving video posted on YouTube shows the exact moment that he had received the news, which was on World Cerebral Palsy Day. The announcement caught Justin by surprise, as he was finishing up a race.  It was a great moment for people with cerebral palsy and their families and, obviously, a nice piece of marketing for Nike.  I feel like I’m being a little manipulated by this story and I still have an urge to run out and buy some Nikes.

Justin’s Story

shutterstock_233474563-300x200-300x200Throughout his young life, Gallegos overcame significant adversity because of his condition. He learned to walk at 2 years old, with the help of a walker. However, physical therapy helped improve his stride well enough that he did not need it by the time he reached Kindergarten. Gallegos initially wanted to join his high school’s football team, but his father Brent persuaded him to join the cross-country team instead. Brent and Justin spoke to his high school’s cross-country coaches Darren James and Larry David about possibly joining the team. Brent assured both coaches that their son could run three miles needed for a cross-country race, and Justin would have a strong work ethic.

Medical errors can seriously affect patients. While mistakes made may not affect health outcomes, sometimes fatal results may occur. A Johns Hopkins study discovered that over 250,000 people die in the United States each year because of medical errors. This makes it the third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. One of the medical errors that are harming patients pertains to medical record documentation. Below are a few examples of how mistakes in entering medical records can cause real injuries to people.

A Young Florida Woman with Headaches

medical malpractice

A 19-year-old Florida woman received metaphorical headaches from blatant errors in her medical record. Because of a chronic illness she has, she visits many medical specialists. As a result, she and her mother always request her medical records after each visit. This allows them to keep track of her medical records in the same place. If it were not for her constantly requesting her medical records, she might not have been able to catch these mistakes in time for mistreatment or misdiagnosis. After a visit to a woman’s health clinic in 2016, she requested her records as she usually did. However, there was something peculiar about the records she received. There was a note in the record saying that she had two children. It noted that one was still alive, and the other one died shortly after birth. According to the dates associated with that note, she would have had to have given birth to the first child at age 13. This made little sense, as she had never been pregnant. It was also not the first mistake either, as a previous record erroneously noted that she had diabetes. She did not find out about that specific mistake in her records until a doctor had asked her questions about her blood sugar. It was only after her appointment that she found the records that note this error. Unfortunately for the woman, trying to remove the pregnancies she never had from the record was difficult. She called the doctor’s office, notifying them that she has no children and has never been pregnant before. The assistant on the other end kept insisting that she was wrong and that the records were accurate. This person also insisted this pregnancy would not have been on record if she did not notify the doctor’s office about it. According to a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, this is not an uncommon response. Doctors do not want to admit their mistakes, out of fear of being sued for medical malpractice.

If you or a loved one are taking valsartan, you may or may not know about the recent recalls or lawsuits involving it. All of them involve valsartan-products manufactured in China by the pharmaceutical company Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical (ZHP). They all note that ZHP-manufactured valsartan contains N-nitrodimethylamine (NDMA), which groups, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), categorized as a potential carcinogen.

Valsartan Worldwide Recalls

med-mal-300x200-300x200ZHP-manufactured Valsartan could be found in various countries throughout the world. The relatively low manufacturing costs in China made it attractive for countries such as the United States to import it. While these generic drugs may be cheaper to make in China, there are fewer regulations that ensure the safe manufacture of these drugs. This is the tradeoff you get when buying some generic drug imports. Because of the discovery of NDMA in ZHP-manufactured valsartan, the European Union, Taiwan, Canada, the United States, and South Korea announced successive recalls in July 2018.

Disturbingly, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will consider approving “a mere error in judgment” does not constitute negligence jury instruction. In other words, doctors can make mistakes as long as the jury wants to understand why the doctor made the mistake and can tolerate it.

The case on appeal involves an infant who underwent multiple treatments for what was thought to be gastroesophageal reflux after the child was fussy, wheezy, vomiting, not sleeping, and exhibiting pain while feeding. After several visits with the defendant doctor, the boy’s parents took him to the ER where doctors found him in severe respiratory distress with a low heart rate. Tragically, the boy died. The autopsy revealed the cause of death as diffuse viral myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart.

The case went to trial, and the court gave an “error in judgment” jury instruction which the defense lawyer ran with in the closing argument. Plaintiffs, the parents of the lost child, are appealing the verdict because of the instruction. The Plaintiff’s urge that the court affirm Pringle v. Rappaport, a shoulder dystocia case where the doctor was accused of excessive force when performing the corkscrew procedure in delivering the child, which abrogated the former “error in judgment rule” as a defense in medical malpractice cases.

A Baltimore County judge Susan Souder has denied disgraced former St. Joseph Medical Center chief cardiologist Mark Midei’s quest to get his Maryland medical license back.

The State Board of Physicians revoked Midei’s license in July after the St. Joseph’s hospital scandal, concluding he had engaged in unprofessional conduct, willfully made a false medical report, grossly overutilized health care services, violated the standard of care and failed to keep adequate medical records.

Plaintiffs allege in these cases that they underwent cardiac catheterizations and given completely unnecessary coronary artery stents by Mark G. Midei, M.D. because you can make a lot of money putting in stents.  These charges are grave.  The plaintiffs specifically allege that this doctor and others resorted to fraud in order to induce the unsuspecting patient to get stent and angioplasty procedures so they could charge for unneeded services as well as medical supplies used during the procedures.  After the fact, there was also fraud in an effort to conceal that the procedures were contraindicated and not medically necessary.

St. Joseph Medical Center, still reeling from the stent debacle, will enter into exclusive negotiations with the University of Maryland Medical System to sell the hospital to UMMS. The Baltimore Sun says that after a year-long selection process it came down to three finalists that also included LifeBridge Health, which owns Sinai and Northwest Hospital, and Ascension Health, which owns St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. The hospital said Catholic Health, as well as federal, state and church authorities, will have to approve the next owner.

I don’t understand this process. You are negotiating for the rights to exclusively negotiate? Could this be one reason why health care costs are so high?

This Towson hospital was really on the rise until hundreds of patients found out that St. Joe’s head cardiologist was performing unnecessary stent surgeries. The hospital St. Joseph’s relied on to determine which stents were unnecessary? UMMS.

After a twelve year lawsuit (which includes a mistrial and appeals), the verdict is in. The estate of a thirty-nine-year-old man has been awarded $1.45 million in punitive damages.

The man, a paraplegic because of a shooting as a teenager, presented to a hospital in 1999, complaining of abdominal pain, protracted constipation, and vomiting. He was given pain medication, underwent an enema, and discharged. He returned the next day with severe abdominal pain after having vomited blood all night. Despite lab work which indicated that he was critically ill, the hospital discharged him. The man died several hours later, of peritonitis and a ruptured peptic ulcer.

The hospital, two physicians, a physician’s assistant, and three nurses were sued, accused of failing to pay proper attention to the man’s symptoms and the blood test results which indicated the severity of his illness. The hospital was further accused of “patient dumping,” the illegal practice of turning away an uninsured or under-insured person in need of emergency care. The lawsuit claimed that the man, who had a criminal record, was told that the police would be called if he returned to the hospital.

Suit was recently filed in the Superior Court in Hartford, Connecticut, alleging that a pediatrician failed to diagnose bacterial meningitis, leading the loss of a young boy’s eyesight.

The details here are so sad. The lawsuit claims that the doctor dismissed the boy’s severe headache, instead of sending him to the emergency room where a spinal tap would have been done and the meningitis would have been diagnosed. Tragically, the boy fell into a month-long coma, suffering severe brain damage along with the blindness, the suit claims.

These kinds of failure to diagnose claims are so sad because the illness could have been so easily prevented had the proper diagnostic tests been done. Instead, the boy’s complaints were disregarded and quickly brushed off. Too often, the severity of injury in meningitis cases is the result of medical malpractice. These claims usually involve an infection from a delay in diagnosis or failure to properly treat the meningitis to stop the infection. Too many doctors chalk up meningitis as simply a headache or a simple fever. Misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is of great concern as early diagnosis of bacterial meningitis and treatment is key to prevent permanent damage such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, intracranial pressure, decreased intelligence, kidney damage, amputation, or death.

The Pop Tort rages about the certificate of merit requirement that many states have in medical malpractice cases, citing a particularly onerous Connecticut merit requirement. The Pop Tort cites a news article of an awful injustice done to a woman who had her medical malpractice lawsuit dismissed.

After a long ride to the end of the article, we find out what the grave injustice was. The plaintiff sued her doctors for alleged breach of contract and infliction of emotional distress — not malpractice – and the court decided she needs a certificate of merit.

Personally, I’m fine with this. I think certificates of merit are actually a good thing. There is a knee jerk reaction: the certificate of merit makes it hard for plaintiffs and their lawyers to bring lawsuits. But not all things that are made harder are bad things. I know that there are some meritorious cases that don’t make the cut because discovery is needed to get the information for the certificate of merit in the first place. But good lawyering can find a way around that problem, at least in Maryland.