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Settlement Medical Malpractice


In the case of the Estate of John Doe vs. Hospital (the settlement contains confidentiality provisions), the parties settled the claim for $850,000 before suit. In summary, John Doe sought medical attention at the emergency department of the Hospital at 5:07 p.m. on March 9, 2006. He reported several days of weakness, difficulty eating and sleeping, feelings of agitation and burning in his chest. Evaluation at the E.D. revealed elevated blood pressure (initially 235/118), elevated blood alcohol at 0.103 and an abnormal serum sodium level of 120. Despite his complaint of "burning in his chest" recorded by the triage nurse, no EKG was obtained, no cardiac monitoring was performed and no cardiac laboratory studies were obtained. Mr. Doe was discharged from the E.D. at 10:45 p.m. with a written diagnosis of "Hyponatremia, Depression, Alcoholism, Hypertension."

Mr. Doe had been treated with a single administration of 500 ml of intravenous fluid (for his low sodium level) and 1 mg of oral Ativan (for his depression/anxiety) and he was instructed to follow-up with his regular physician within 2-3 days. Later that night at 1:30 a.m., Mr. Doe became unresponsive and despite immediate CPR by family members, and after prolonged efforts of resuscitation by paramedics, he had no response. CPR was discontinued in the field and Mr. Doe was pronounced dead on arrival back at the Hospital. Plaintiff alleged that the E.D. medical staff of the Hospital did not meet the standard of care in their evaluation and treatment of Mr. Doe on March 9, 2006, by failing to evaluate his complaint of chest pain and treat him appropriately. The plaintiff claimed that a complaint of chest pain reported by a 53-year old male with a known history of hypertension must be investigated. Such an investigation would typically include additional history taking, the performance of an EKG and ordinarily the obtaining of a chest x-ray and cardiac lab tests. The plaintiff contended that this departure from the standard of care directly contributed to Mr. Doe's death due to cardiac causes within hours of his discharge from the Hospital. The plaintiff argued that if the medical staff had performed basic medical tests on Mr. Doe, as a routine evaluation of his report of chest pain, Mr. Doe's acute cardiac condition would have been identified and he would have received appropriate treatment, most likely resulting in his survival.

Upon presentation of a report from an expert certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine, who had served as full-time faculty in the teaching of both clinical and academic emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and at Harvard Medical School, the Hospital quickly negotiated a settlement of the case for $850,000. Although the plaintiff was still a young man, he had little in terms of economic losses, because his work history and income was limited.

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