Medical Malpractice Cases: North Carolina Attorneys
Pediatric Burns -- $18.5 Million Settlement
In December, 2007, a young child suffered from severe and permanent injuries, including disfiguring burns, as a result of malfunctioning equipment and alleged negligent conduct of defendants. The case settled for $18.5 million in November, 2008. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, additional information must remain confidential.
Medical Malpractice / Halo Screw Penetrated Skull 1.8 cm -- Brain Injury -- $10.4 Million Verdict
A young boy was admitted to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, or WFUBMC) after a tree limb had fallen on his shoulder, causing avulsions of all five brachial plexus nerves. The physicians said that they gave him the blood thinner Heparin because they were concerned about a subclavian artery clot propagating proximally to the vertebral artery and possibly embolizing to the brain. A day or so later, they discovered bleeding in the spinal cord. The PICU attending physician wrote a note in the chart stating that there was extensive clot in the cervical spine presumed secondary to the avulsed nerve root and exacerbated by Heparin. Surgeons performed an emergency evacuation of the subdural hematoma, requiring laminectomies at several levels. A week later, apparently because of their concern about long term stability, orthopedic surgeons installed a halo device on the child's head. During this procedure, they screwed one of the four pins on the halo much too far -- 1.8 cm inside the skull (almost three-quarters of an inch). As this screw penetrated the skull, it pushed the dura away from the calvarium, ripping the middle meningeal artery, which bled inside his head. Over the next six hours, a large epidural hematoma developed from this bleeding, causing a subfalcine herniation and mid-line shift of at least 9 mm. Once discovered, neurosurgeons performed emergency surgery to evacuate the hematoma, but the damage had been done. Later CT scans showed infarcts and strokes in the right parietal region and a deep stroke in the basil ganglia region. The boy was left with permanent brain injuries and neuro-cognitive deficits. Cliff Britt and John Chilson took the case to trial in Forsyth County Superior Court against WFUBMC. After four weeks of trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict on November 7, 2007, in the amount of $10,437,093, which was less than the past and projected future medical and other expenses.
Medical Malpractice / Hospital Negligence -- Burns to Newborn in NICU -- $9 Million Settlement
Minutes after birth, a 27-week premature infant (with APGARS of 8 and 8) was placed on top of flexible plastic saline solution bags (IV bags) that had been overheated by staff nurses in a microwave oven at Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, NC (FirstHealth). The helpless child was left on the hot bags for 10-15 minutes, crying non-stop, as she sustained severe third degree, full-thickness burns on her back and buttocks. The severe shock of these burns to her body caused a severe germinal matrix hemorrhage and intraventricular hemorrhage, leading to hydrocephalus, requiring shunting. The burn wound later cultured positive with a bacteria (serratia marcescens) that later made its way into her bloodstream and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), causing meningitis. These injuries left her neurologically devastated. Suit was filed against Moore Regional Hospital for the negligence of its nurses. The court later allowed a motion to amend the complaint to include a claim for punitive damages for the reckless and willful and wanton conduct that caused the burns. Although the hospital initially denied negligence, it later admitted liability but contended that the neurological injuries were completely unrelated to the severe burns that they had caused. In June 2000, Cliff Britt and Tom Comerford were able to settle the case before trial for $9 million, paid by St. Paul, the insurance carrier for the hospital.
Medical Malpractice / Failure to Administer Antibiotics -- Quadruple Amputee -- $11.3 Million Settlement
A 39 year old man with acute myelogenous leukemia was undergoing rounds of chemotherapy, which caused him to be seriously immuno-compromised. As a result of an eye irritation, known as iritis, a common complication of chemotherapy, he was admitted to the hospital for observation. During his stay, he became volume-depleted and developed a fever. In the lawsuit for personal injuries caused by medical negligence, plaintiff was represented by three law firms, including Comerford & Britt. Plaintiff alleged that the hospital failed to timely administer antibiotics and failed to deal appropriately with the volume depletion, and that these failures caused him to develop sepsis and become hypotensive. As a result, he sustained catastrophic injuries -- he lost both of his arms below the elbow, and lost both of his legs below the knee. The hospital settled in December 2009 for $11.3 million.
Medical Malpractice / Hysterectomy / Perforated Sigmoid Colon -- Hospitalization and Death -- $7 Million Verdict
A 54 year old special education teacher underwent a vaginal hysterectomy in June of 2007. She was discharged the next morning with a 20,000 white blood count, which was extremely elevated and was strong evidence of an infection. At home, the woman experienced severe abdominal pain, fever and chills and she returned to the hospital. While in the hospital, her white blood count remained high, she developed bandemia and she continued to experience severe abdominal pain. The gynecologist who performed the vaginal hysterectomy, and who was the woman's attending physician, failed to rule out a bowel perforation, a known and very serious complication of a hysterectomy. As a result, the woman developed sepsis and multi-organ failure. Eventually, an exploratory surgery was performed by another physician, at which time a perforation (or hole) in the woman's sigmoid colon was discovered. As a result of the undiagnosed perforation, bacteria had been spilling into her sterile peritoneal cavity for over 72 hours causing infection, sepsis, peritonitis, and multi-organ failure. She endured a terrible 3 month course in the ICU at two hospitals before she succumbed to her injuries, sepsis, and organ failure. She was survived by her husband and three adult children. Tom Comerford and John Kenneth Moser took the case to trial in Wilkes County Superior Court against the gynecologist and a general surgeon whom she consulted. On May 24, 2011, after three weeks of trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict against the gynecologist for $7 million.
Medical Malpractice / Brain Injury from Birth Trauma -- Verdict
A young woman went to the hospital to deliver her first child. The decision was made to induce her labor with Pitocin. Despite the administration of large amounts of Pitocin, her labor failed to satisfactorily progress. The electronic fetal monitoring strip displayed clear patterns of uterine hyperstimulation, late decelerations, and other evidence of fetal distress. Despite such signs, the hospital staff failed to appreciate the severity of situation. When the physician finally delivered the child, irreparable injury had already occurred. The child was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy which will require a lifetime of complete care. The mother settled with the physician and nurses. However, the nurse midwife, who primarily cared for the mother took the case to trial. Tom Comerford was the lead attorney in the case, that resulted in a jury verdict in Kentucky in December, 2004, totaling $6 million.
Medical Malpractice / Misdiagnosis -- Total Blindness
A man presented to his family doctor with a 2-3 day history of nasal drainage and fever for which the patient took an over-the-counter medication. He also developed swelling and redness of the facial area. Though the symptoms were consistent with a bacterial infection of some sort, the doctor made a diagnosis of viral influenza coupled with an allergic reaction to the medication's dye which caused angioedema (facial swelling). The patient contended a simple blood test would have disclosed an elevated white blood cell count which would have confirmed a bacterial process and led to the administration of antibiotics. Instead, the patient's face continued to swell as a result of the bacterial infection, known as orbital cellulitis. Subsequent phone calls to his doctor's office resulted in recommendations to adjust his steroid dosage, which did nothing to treat the infection. A few days after initially presenting to the doctor, the patient permanently lost vision in both eyes and is completely blind as a result of extensive infection around his eyes. The case settled in the summer of 2005 for $4.875 million.
Medical Malpractice / Misdiagnosis -- Multiple Amputations
One day in September, 1998, a school teacher (3-5 year olds) began to feel sick. She felt dizzy and nauseated and had a fever of about 103 degrees. She went to a primary care walk in clinic where she was examined and sent home with some pills. She threw up all night long and her mother took her to the emergency room the next day. Unfortunately, those who examined and treated her failed to recognize that her symptoms and lab results were classic signs of a blood infection (sepsis). It was only after she had been at the hospital for over 16 hours that the hospital finally gave her the antibiotics needed to combat the infection. Unfortunately, by then it was too late and the damage had been done. Because of clotting in her blood vessels, her legs, hand and fingers had to be amputated. The parties settled for $4.9 million.
Medical Malpractice / Gastric Bypass Surgery -- Extended Hospitalization and Death
After a 44 year old woman underwent gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, she experienced significant post-operative complications that were not timely diagnosed or treated. As a result, she spent more than two years in various hospitals and long-term care facilities until her death. The sole beneficiary was her 17 year old daughter. After nearly two years of complex litigation, the case settled in November, 2008, for $3.35 million.
Medical Malpractice / Neurosurgeon Negligence -- Quadriplegia
A young woman was involved in a car accident, in which she injured the ligaments in her cervical spine. Her neck was stabilized at the scene and she was transported to the emergency room at the defendant hospital. She was admitted to the hospital for treatment. Despite multiple x-rays of the head and neck, the films that were taken were insufficient and did not enable the doctors to "clear the spine." An MRI was not performed. The doctors nevertheless removed the collar placed around the patient's neck for stabilization, allowed her to move around, and encouraged her to undergo physical therapy. After seven days in the hospital, the injured ligaments in her spine gave way and one of her vertebrae moved out of place, becoming impinged against her spinal cord (subluxation) and causing permanent quadriplegia. The patient's medical bills exceeded $350,000. Her loss of income was estimated at approximately $250,000. The present value of her life care plan was estimated at over $7.5 million. The parties settled after opening statements at trial in 2002 for approximately $3 million.
Medical Malpractice / Improper Management after Surgery -- Partial Blindness
A married 53 year old nurse had surgery for removal of a retained fibroid following a prior hysterectomy and removal of multiple fibroids. Defendant physician lacerated her rectum during the procedure, which he failed to recognize despite "oozing" noted. She was discharged from the outpatient surgical center several hours after surgery despite complaints of severe pain. Two days later, after multiple calls to the medical group due to pain, as well as a visit to her family physician, she was sent to an Emergency Room. She was then transferred to the hospital where the defendant physician enjoyed privileges. On admission, her abdomen was distended and she was in severe pain. She was seen by a member of the medical group, but no imaging studies were ordered. The next day, radiographic films showed free air in the abdominal cavity and lab studies revealed a critically low white blood count. Approximately 14 hours after admission, she went into septic shock and became hypotensive before she was finally taken to the operating room where the bowel laceration was repaired. She had multiple surgeries and a prolonged hospitalization to treat the laceration and resulting sepsis. Due to the hypotensive episode, she lost sight in one eye and sustained some vision loss in the other eye. She settled with some defendants at mediation in December 2007 and settled the bulk of the case with the remaining defendants in March, 2008. The total settlement amount was $2,535,000.
Medical Malpractice / Mishap During Pacemaker Battery Change -- Brain Damage, Death
A civil lawsuit was filed in North Carolina Superior Court on behalf of a young boy against his treating physician, the hospital, and others. By agreement, certain information cannot be disclosed and must remain confidential-including the identity of the parties, the venue of the lawsuit, the identity of the insurance carrier and the identity of the defense attorneys. Because of problems before birth, a pacemaker had been placed inside the boy at an early age. After several years, the patient went to his physician to have the battery changed. During this procedure, the electronic pulses to his heart were disrupted and he went into cardiac arrest. Delays in resuscitation resulted in severe and permanent brain damage. Later, the boy died. The parties engaged in substantial discovery and settled in mid-1999 shortly before trial for about $2.5 million.
Medical Malpractice / Complications from Bariatric Surgery -- Brain Injury -- Verdict
A 56 year-old woman had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight. The surgeon bypassed significantly more intestine than had been approved and removed a part of her stomach without her permission or knowledge. Due to the surgical technique, she had many post operative complications, including loss of potassium. This caused a cardiac arrest and permanent anoxic brain injury because of the time without oxygen. The case against the two surgeons and their practice went to trial in January, 2008 and lasted about four weeks. The jury deliberated over 2 days before returning a verdict for $2,100,000. The full amount of the verdict was paid pursuant to a high low settlement agreement the parties entered into while the jury was deliberating. As a result of the settlement agreement, the defendants waived their right to appeal.
Medical Malpractice / EMS -- Wrongful Death from Asthma Attack
A 37 year-old newlywed suffered a severe asthma attack after he had been married only a week. His wife dialed 911, and personnel from the local fire department and the county's EMS responded to the scene. Despite being only 8 miles from the nearest hospital, the emergency response personnel stayed on the scene almost an hour. The patient went into cardiac arrest with the emergency personnel by his side. Unfortunately, they did not follow established protocols for respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. When moving him, they dislodged his IV and severed a cord to the manual defibrillator. Although there were several other methods available to analyze heart rhythm, the emergency response personnel did not assess his heart rhythm for 17 minutes. By the time it was assessed, it was too late. The decedent was a loan officer with a mortgage company making about $41,000 a year. He was survived by his wife (age 28), mother (age 65) and father (age 69). At a pre-suit mediation in May, 2008, the county contended that the first $250,000 of its $1 million primary liability policy was a self insured retention and thus preserved the governmental immunity, and that the second $2 million excess policy was a "repayment policy" that also preserved the county's governmental immunity since if the county decided not to pay, then there would be no need for any repayment by the excess carrier. The case settled for $1.75 million at the mediation.
Medical Malpractice / Fatal Heart Attack
A 52 year old self-employed plumber presented to his family doctor with a 2-3 day history of chest pain and nausea. The doctor ordered an EKG which disclosed abnormal ST wave depressions indicative of a cardiac event. Rather than consult a cardiologist or send the patient to the emergency room, the doctor sent the patient home with instructions to take aspirin. Later that evening, the patient suffered a fatal heart attack. In 2005, the defendant doctor and his clinic settled for $1.46 million.
Medical Malpractice / Congenital Deformity -- Chest Excavatum
A boy was born on June 17, 1985 with a deformity. In the summer of 1987, when he was approximately two years old, his parents sought the medical advice of defendant. At that time, defendant was touting a surgery technique for children for repair of the congenital deformity. Defendant told the parents that the surgery would provide a better quality of life. On October 12, 1988, defendant performed a surgical repair of the patient's affected area. As the boy grew, his parents discovered that he had a complete failure; the area remained the same size it had been immediately prior to the surgery performed by defendant in October 1988, appearing severely deformed. He has experienced progressive shortness of breath and a progressive decrease in his ability to engage in physical activity. As he entered adolescence he suffered decreased thoracic volume and decreased pulmonary capacity. He has been diagnosed with severe restrictive airway disease and was found to have compression and deformity of the anterior heart. In addition to loss of pulmonary function, he has severe and permanent physical deformities. The parties settled in June, 2005, for $1.35 million.
Medical Malpractice / Negligent Nursing Care -- Cauda Equina Syndrome
A man, 69, was hospitalized in 1997 for removal of metal hardware in his lumbar spine. After the surgery, he continued to bleed in the area of the surgery and complained to the nurses that his legs were numb and that he had burning sensations in his right leg. His complaints were ignored. The next morning the treating physician found out about his complaints and performed immediate surgery. Unfortunately, the bleeding, called an epidural hematoma, had placed pressure on the nerves in the lumbar spine, creating "cauda equine syndrome" and resulted in permanent paralysis in his right leg and loss of sensation in his seat and groin. Every day, he has to catheterize himself whenever he needs to urinate and has to manually stimulate his bowels for them to move and empty. He is confined to a walker or a wheelchair. The case settled before trial in December 2001, for $1.36 million.
Medical Malpractice / Post-operative Bleeding -- Death
A 78 year-old man had colon resection surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Within a few hours after surgery, he displayed signs and symptoms of internal bleeding, including a systolic pressure in the 60's and 70's. Over the next 7-8 hours, he was treated conservatively. After experiencing respiratory distress, he was returned to the operating room where his mesenteric artery was repaired. Although he showed signs of stabilizing following the second surgery, his white blood count began to rise and his renal function declined. A surgeon ordered an abdominal CT, which showed free air in the abdomen. However, the surgeon testified that he was not told by the radiologist about the presence of free air. The radiologist testified that free air was a critical finding and he would have reported it to the surgeon. The following day, he was transferred by ambulance to a nephrologist at an outside hospital for renal care. The nephrologist immediately consulted a surgeon who took him to the operating room where they found a near complete disruption of the colonic anastomosis. He died 4 days after the repair of his colon and was survived by his wife of 55 years and two adult daughters. After significant discovery, the case settled for $1,375,000 in March, 2008.
Medical Malpractice / Emergency Medicine -- Wrongful Death after Heart Attack
A 28 year old machinist presented to an emergency department with complaints of chest pain, nausea and vomiting. In violation of hospital policy, as well as chest pain protocols, the triage nurse negligently categorized the young man as a non-urgent patient. He was then placed in an unsupervised family waiting room. He was later found to be unresponsive. He was diagnosed with ventricular fibrillation and Code was called. However, attempts at intubation and defibrillation were unsuccessful. At the time of his death, he shared custody of his 7 year old son with his wife from whom he was separated. The case settled in February, 2008, following mediation, for $1,050,000.
Medical Malpractice / Cardiology -- Wrongful Death after Pacemaker Lead Extraction -- Verdict -- Affirmed on Appeal
A 56 year old wife and mother of two daughters was evaluated in 2003 by a cardiologist, Richard Weintraub, M.D., at Southeastern Heart and Vascular Center in Greensboro, for a pacemaker change and possible lead extraction. During the extraction of the pacemaker leads, which was done at a "cath lab" at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital, the force applied during the lead extraction caused a tear in the vessels near the heart. As a result, she developed pericardial tamponade, which occurs when blood pools around the heart and the resulting pressure makes it more difficult for the heart to beat normally. A pericardiocentesis was performed in an attempt to relieve the pressure. Emergent surgery was performed, which saved her life, but she suffered permanent and global brain damage because of lack of oxygen. Her family was forced to decide to discontinue life support the next day. Plaintiff alleged that the physician was negligent in removing the lead, in failing to properly prepare for potential complications, and in mis-handling the complications that occurred after the vessel had been torn. The case went to trial in Guilford County Superior Court and the jury returned a verdict in February, 2007, in the amount of $1,047,732.20, which was unanimously affirmed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in February, 2009. The North Carolina Supreme Court denied defendants' petition for discretionary review in January, 2010. Mag Mutual Insurance Company, which insured the defendant and paid lawyers to defend the case, eventually paid $1,441,105.40 to the clerk of court to satisfy the judgment, plus accumulated interest at the statutory rate of 8% since the date the complaint was filed. In addition, Mag Mutual Insurance Company paid Plaintiff over $60,000 for the costs the estate incurred in prosecuting the claim. The opinion of the Court of Appeals can be found here: http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions/2009/pdf/070960-1.pdf.
Medical Malpractice / Failure to Follow Heparin Protocol after Surgery -- DVT, Death from Pulmonary Embolus -- Verdict
A 63 year old man underwent successful coronary artery bypass grafting at defendant hospital. Over a week later, he began to suffer from pain and swelling in his left calf. He went back to the hospital and was diagnosed with deep venous thrombosis (DVT), or clots in his leg. The patient was admitted and treated with anticoagulant therapy. The medical records indicated some confusion on the part of the medical staff regarding the proper anticoagulant protocol to administer. The patient, a 275 pound individual, was placed on a heparin regimen designed for someone about half his size. A few days into his hospital stay, the patient's clot broke and traveled to his lungs, causing a fatal pulmonary embolism. He was survived by his 3 adult children. The case went to trial in 2003 and the firm obtained a verdict in the amount of $875,000 plus interest. The parties later entered into a settlement in the amount of $960,000.
Medical Malpractice / Clotting in the Carotid Arteries -- Stroke
In 2003, a married 50 year old welder learned he had bilateral carotid artery disease. A few months after undergoing a right carotid endarterectomy, he had a left carotid endarterectomy, which was performed by the defendant surgeon. Soon after discharge, the plaintiff suffered a stroke. He was evaluated by another surgeon who noted that the left carotid artery was suffering from a "waistband" effect, or significant narrowing of the vessel. Further, the surgeon found clotting at the site of the waistband effect. In addition, clotting was subsequently discovered in the right carotid artery despite the recent surgery. As a result of the waistband effect and clotting in the left carotid artery, blood flow to the brain was impeded which caused the stroke. The plaintiff continues to suffer from permanent physical and mental deficits. The case settled in April, 2008, prior to mediation, for $950,000, which was just under the $1 million policy limits that were available.
Medical Malpractice / Failure to Evaluate after Surgery -- Verdict
In February 1998, a patient underwent multiple surgical procedures, including a total hysterectomy, on the advice of her treating physician. During surgery, the patient's doctor perforated her bowel, but this went unnoticed and untreated. After several weeks of severe pain and numerous calls to her physician, the patient decided to report to the emergency department where she was diagnosed with a pelvic abscess and peritonitis. Her condition, which was caused by the perforated bowel, was life threatening and required immediate surgery to remove a large portion of her colon. The case went to trial in the spring of 2002, where the patient prevailed in what is believed to be the largest and only medical malpractice verdict ever in Wilkes County. The case settled after trial for a confidential amount.
Medical Malpractice / Ophthalmologist "Drilled" Through Cornea -- Blindness -- Verdict
A 54 year old metalworker, presented to an ophthalmologist with pain in his eye and blurred vision. On examination, the doctor discovered that a tiny piece of metal had partially penetrated the patient's cornea where it remained lodged. The doctor removed the metal and diagnosed the patient with a condition called "rust ring." The doctor prescribed topical medications and scheduled follow up visits. As a result of the rust ring, which failed to resolve, the patient's corneal tissue became necrotic. At one of the follow up visits, the doctor used a battery operated burr, also called a "drill," to remove the necrotic tissue. While removing the necrotic tissue, the doctor penetrated the cornea with the drill, puncturing the eye. There was some evidence that the doctor penetrated so deeply into the eye as to penetrate the lens as well. The patient underwent a corneal transplant and several other follow up surgeries. However, the patient's sight had likely suffered permanent damage, leaving him with 20/200 to 20/400 vision in the affected eye. The case went to trial in 2004 and the firm obtained a verdict in the amount of $800,000.
Medical Malpractice / Cardiologist Error causing Death
On May 28, 2002, a female patient was evaluated by her cardiologist. Her chief complaint was chest pain at rest accompanied by nausea and shortness of breath. Despite the cardiologist's benign evaluation, he referred her to an interventional cardiologist for an interventional catheterization. On June 4, 2002, she underwent an angiogram which demonstrated that all of her coronary arteries had sufficient blood flow. In spite of these findings, the interventional cardiologist performed a percutaneous transluminal coronary intervention on vessels that were previously bypassed. During the procedure, the cardiologist perforated her left circumflex artery with a rotoblator, causing massive bleeding. Approximately 2-1/2 hours after the perforation, an emergent echocardiogram showed PEA or complete cardiac standstill, and resuscitation was stopped. An autopsy, performed at defendants' facility, revealed that the cause of death was perforation of the circumflex coronary artery during percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty. The parties settled in December, 2004 for $750,000.
Medical Malpractice / Birth Trauma -- Shoulder Dystocia -- Erb's Palsy -- Brachial Plexus Injury
In June 1998, a young woman went to the hospital for the birth of her second child. There were a number of factors that made vaginal delivery more risky. However, instead of performing a c-section, which would have alleviated the risks involved, the treating physician ignored the risk factors and allowed her labor to proceed. The second stage of labor exceeded four hours. The physician used a vacuum extractor to deliver the baby's head, and the shoulder became stuck during delivery (a condition called "shoulder dystocia"). Due to the improper and excessive lateral traction applied to the baby's head during delivery, the child's brachial plexus nerves near her spine were irreparably stretched, permanently resulting in a "limp arm" and numerous other problems associated with Erb's Palsy or Klumke's Palsy (sometimes known as brachial plexus palsy). The case settled at mediation in September 2002 for $725,000, which was believed to be the largest settlement in a shoulder dystocia case in North Carolina at the time.
Medical Malpractice / Long-Term Care Facility Negligence -- Fall from Window
A 74-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease died in March, 1998, after falling out of a fourth-floor window of a long-term care facility. He had previously told the staff that he would go out the window if given the chance. Just before his death, the window was opened at his request by an aide, who then left the room. That case settled at mediation in early 2001 for $725,000. About eight months after the death of the first resident, another mentally challenged resident went out a third floor window of the same facility, but fortunately, he survived. He had also made previous threats to jump out the window and was actually prevented from doing so on one occasion by a staff member. During the six years he was at the facility, he "escaped" at least 15 times and was focused on getting out. That case also settled at mediation in early 2001 for $550,000. As a part of settlement, defendants insisted that the following information be kept confidential: the identities of the defendants, the identity of the insurance carrier, and the identities of the city and county where the incidents took place.
Medical Malpractice / Failure to Diagnose Heart Attack -- Wrongful Death
A 27 year old woman went to the Hospital's Emergency Department with complaints of chest pain. Cardiology was not consulted and no follow-up cardiac testing was performed. She was diagnosed with costochondritis and sent home. She later went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to another hospital emergency department where she was pronounced dead on arrival. She was approximately ten weeks pregnant with her first child at the time. The autopsy report showed that the primary cause of death was occlusive coronary artery disease (CAD) of the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery. She was survived by her mother. The matter settled in 2006 for $700,000 from the hospital's insurer before suit was filed.
Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death After Gastric Bypass Surgery
A 40 year old single mother of three died after gastric bypass surgery. The wrongful death case settled before trial in 2005 for $650,000.
Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death After Heart Catheterization
A 57 year old married mother of three adult children died as a result of complications that arose after a heart catheterization. The wrongful death case settled before trial in 2003 for $650,000.
Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death After Neck Surgery
A 68 year old married father of six adult children died in the hospital after complications that arose after a carotid endarterectomy. The wrongful death case settled before trial in 2006 for $500,000.
Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death After Failure to Discover Mass in Airway
A 35 year old single woman suffocated during a call to 911. She had been discharged from the hospital not long before, and they had failed to discover the mass that was obstructing her airway. The case settled before trial in 2003 for $425,000.
Medical Malpractice / Tubal Ligation without Consent
A 35 year old woman presented to the defendant hospital to deliver her third child. She expressed her desire to attempt a natural delivery after delivering her first two children by c-section. After her labor failed to progress, the decision was made to perform a c-section. Just before the surgery, the defendant OB/GYN recommended to the patient and her family that she have her tubes ties (tubal ligation). The patient refused. After delivering the child by c-section, and while the mother was on the operating room table, the OB/GYN repeated his recommendation to tie the mother's tubes. Again, the mother and her husband refused. The OB/GYN performed the tubal ligation anyway against the family's express wishes. The defendants claimed that the mother gave her verbal consent to the tubal ligation in the operating room. The absence of a written consent form for the procedure was undisputed. The patient settled with the hospital nurses and the OB/GYN physician for $435,000.
Medical Malpractice / Death After Infection in Surgical Wound
Decedent, an 85-year old widow, was seen by Defendant doctor for lower back pain and numbness in her legs. Defendant doctor advised Decedent to have bilateral lumbar laminectomy surgery on L1-L5. The procedure was performed on May 28, 2002 by Defendant doctor at the Hospital. Over the next week, her condition continued to deteriorate. On the afternoon of June 4, following Defendant doctor's evaluation, another treating physician saw Decedent and noted her significant difficulty with pain and confusion as well as bruising around the surgical wound. Significant discolored discharge at the wound site was noted, accompanied by a rise in temperature. Rocephin (an antibiotic) was ordered, then canceled by Defendant doctor. Discolored and malodorous discharge continued to be noted at the wound site during routine checks. By 12:30 on June 8, she was still lethargic and "very difficult to arouse." By 13:00, Decedent's blood pressure dropped to 80/62, her pulse was 40 and she was unresponsive. At 13:30, her blood pressure was 58/30 and she was being bagged by a respiratory therapist. Cultures taken at 13:45 show that Decedent's WBC was 38.9. Cultures taken at 21:06 reveal a WBC of 45.3. Decedent was subsequently transferred to ICU where she underwent numerous life-saving therapies over the course of four weeks. Unfortunately, her condition continued to decline and she died on July 6. The death certificate, signed by defendant doctor, notes that the immediate cause of death was pulmonary failure as a consequence of lumbar wound infection. The parties settled the case in June, 2005 for $275,000.
Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death -- Failure to Diagnose Dissection of Carotid Artery
A young married mother of two died several hours after being discharged from the hospital. The plaintiff alleged that the neurologist failed to recognize that she had a dangerous and life-threatening dissection of the carotid artery. The case settled in January 1997 for a confidential amount.
Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death of Child After Birth
Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for induction of labor. Her membranes were artificially ruptured and the fluid was clear. An internal fetal heart rate monitor was attached and an internal uterine pressure catheter was placed. She reached complete cervical dilation and the OB-GYN physician instructed her to begin pushing. As she began to push, the fetal heart rate tracings began to show a pattern of severe variable and late decelerations, indicating that the baby was in distress. Before delivery, the physician's orders were never modified or canceled despite clear and ominous signs of uterine hyper-stimulation, elevated resting tone, periods of tachycardia, fetal compromise and lack of satisfactory progress toward delivery. The baby was born with severely depressed APGARS, severe birth asphyxia and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). The baby eventually developed seizures, brain injury and multiple organ failure. The parents had to make the difficult decision to discontinue life support. The cause of death as recorded on baby's death certificate was severe birth asphyxia. The case was settled on a confidential basis before trial in 2006.
Medical Malpractice / Nursing Home Negligence
An elderly woman walked into a nursing facility in late January 1996. Less than two weeks later, the nurses called 911 and she was taken by paramedics to a nearby hospital, where she died after about a week. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants neglected her and allowed her to become extremely dehydrated. The case settled prior to mediation in January 1999 on a confidential basis.
Medical Malpractice / Nursing Home Negligence -- Broken Neck During Wheelchair Race
A older man was placed in a nursing home by his family because he was unable to make decisions for himself and unable to take care of himself (having had cranial surgeries many years before). In May 1996, staff at the nursing home invited the plaintiff to participate in a wheelchair race in which one of the staff would push the plaintiff. The race was conducted in the grass and a front wheel apparently caught in an uneven place, causing the wheelchair to stop abruptly and propel the plaintiff onto the ground, at which time he broke his neck. The case settled during mediation in December 1998 on a confidential basis.
Medical Malpractice / Dental Negligence
A patient allowed his family dentist to perform a full mouth restoration that involved endodontic treatment and crowns. He received substandard care. The patient filed a complaint with the North Carolina Dental Board, which investigated. As a result of the investigation, the dentist signed a consent order that found that his failure to comply with the applicable standard of care was a "dereliction from professional duty and constituted negligence in the practice of dentistry." His license was suspended. Nevertheless, he denied civil liability for money damages and the patient was forced to file a complaint in court. The case settled before trial in 1996 on a confidential basis.
Medical Malpractice / Skilled Nursing Facility Negligence Resulting -- Fall -- Death
A 73 year-old wife and mother with decubitis ulcers in both heels developed a Methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or "MRSA" infection. After receiving treatment in a hospital she was discharged to the hospital's skilled nursing facility for IV therapy for her infections. The patient, who was by all accounts alert and oriented most of the time, was confined to a wheelchair and had not walked on her own for approximately two years. Curiously, one week into her stay at the skilled nursing facility, the patient got out of her bed just after midnight and attempted to stand on her clubbed feet to throw away a banana peel. She fell but fortunately did not injure herself. The staff of the skilled nursing facility did not reassess her fall risk, but instead counseled her not to get out of bed again without assistance. Approximately one week later, the patient again got out of bed just after midnight, this time to make her grown children a holiday dinner. Unfortunately, she fell again and broke her hip. She died a few days later from complications of her hip surgery. It was determined during the investigation of the case that the patient had been given high doses of Ambien, a hallucinogenic sleep medication, a little more than an hour before both of her falls. The case settled shortly before trial in 2008 for $400,000.
Medical Malpractice / Health Care Facility Negligence Resulting in Fall
After having hip surgery, a patient (over 80-years-old) was left unattended. She suffered a severe fall in the hospital and never walked again. The case settled on a confidential basis in 1998 before the suit was filed.
Medical Malpractice / Neurosurgeon Failed to Diagnose Spinal Infection
A neurosurgeon failed to diagnose and treat a disc space infection and resulting osteomyelitis, which caused a significant spinal disability following a routine repair of a herniated disc. The patient's medical bills exceeded $350,000. Her loss of income was estimated at approximately $700,000. The present value of her life care plan was estimated at $2,497,433. The defendant requested an early mediation, and the case settled for a confidential amount.
Medical Malpractice / Brain Injury Caused During Surgery to Remove Tonsils
A child sustained a brain injury after aspirating adenoid tissue during a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy. The case settled against the doctor for the limits of his medical malpractice insurance.
Medical Malpractice / Injury during Patient Transfer
An elderly lady presented to the hospital after suffering from stroke-like symptoms. While in the hospital, her physicians noted a cardiac condition which required catheterization. The hospital staff dropped the patient when they attempted to transfer her to the cath table. She suffered severe facial bruising as a result. The parties settled prior to depositions in early 2005.
Medical Malpractice / Bariatric Surgery
A patient initially underwent Roux‑en‑Y gastric bypass surgery in April of 2003. At the time of discharge, the patient had a hiatal hernia that was not repaired during the surgery. In April of 2005, the patient was admitted to the hospital with complaints of abdominal pain and nausea. A CT scan again revealed the hiatal hernia and that the patient's stomach had herniated into her chest. The surgeon scheduled a second surgery in May 2005 to repair the hernia, to reduce the volume of the patient's stomach pouch and to band the stomach pouch with a silastic ring band. During the second surgery, the patient 's spleen had to be removed due to uncontrollable bleeding caused by the surgeon. Post‑operatively, the patient developed persistent portal vein thrombosis and mesenteric venous thrombosis. Her condition, which was caused by the physician's failure to initially repair the hiatal hernia, properly perform the initial gastric bypass surgery, properly perform the second surgery and by the surgeon's failure recognize and treat her post‑operative complications, was life threatening and required ongoing medical treatment and additional surgeries. The case settled with the surgeon and hospital prior to trial for a confidential amount.
Medical Malpractice / Compartment Syndrome -- Leg Amputation
A seventeen year old boy sustained a knee injury while participating in a wrestling match at his high school in December, 2005. He was evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon and eventually had knee surgery about three months later on a Thursday. Because the feeling had not returned to his leg by Saturday, his mother called the ortho on call and was told to continue giving him Tylenol and to keep leg elevated. She called again on Monday because he still had no feeling in his leg, and was told the same thing. On Tuesday, he saw the surgeon in the clinic. By now, he had severe pain in his ankle and could not wiggle his toes or feel his foot. According to family, even though the surgeon could barely find a pulse with his hands or with a Doppler, he wrapped the ankle in an ACE bandage and suggested a knee brace. On Wednesday, the heel was discolored, he still had no feeling, still could not wiggle his toes, and his left foot was cooler than his right foot. On Thursday, his mother called the surgeon's office and e-mailed the PA about his condition and the PA said to bring him to the clinic. Upon arrival at the clinic, they could not find a pulse in the foot and instructed him to go to the ER, where they sat for 2-3 hours before being rushed into emergency surgery for compartment compression syndrome. The surgeon who saw him in the ER told the family that the damage that he saw during surgery did not happen in just two days and suggested that they consult with an attorney. Several more surgeries were done before his leg was finally amputated just below the knee several weeks later. The case against the medical facility and the orthopedic surgeon was settled in December, 2007, for a confidential amount.
Medical Malpractice / Defective Dental Implant Equipment
Attorneys with the firm pursued claims against an oral surgeon and the manufacturer of equipment used to place dental implants. The patient's face was left partially numb when the placement of an implant damaged the inferior alveolar nerve located in the lower jaw. The claims against the equipment manufacturer were settled before trial and the claims against the oral surgeon were tried to a jury, which resulted in a defense verdict.
Medical Malpractice / Blindness Following Brain Surgery
In July, 2003, a 39 year old man had a large benign frontal meningioma removed from his head. Six weeks afterwards, he was still having blurry vision but his neurosurgeon advised him not to do anything about his vision until at least three months after the surgery. Following that advice, the patient was later seen by an ophthalmologist in late September, 2003, who measured his vision at "count fingers" in one eye and 20/200 in the other. He was told that because of the pale papilledema and optic atrophy, his vision would not improve. He later saw a neuro-ophthalmologist, who put him on Diamox, which is used to decrease intracranial pressure by reducing the production of cerebral spinal fluid. Experts testified that earlier intervention with medication, shunting or nerve sheath fenestration probably would have resulted in a better visual outcome. A life care planner and economist testified that the present value of the economic losses, including future care and reduced earning capacity, would exceed $3.5 million. The case went to trial in Wake County in February, 2009, and resulted in a defense verdict. The patient's treating neuro-ophthalmologist testified that earlier intervention would likely not have made any difference.
Medical Malpractice / Vascular Closure Device After Heart Catheterization
A middle-aged female patient complained of pain and loss of function in one leg following the alleged improper placement of a vascular closure device (angioseal with collagen) during a heart catheterization procedure. The case went to trial in Burke County in May, 2004, and resulted in a defense verdict.
Medical Malpractice / Shoulder Dystocia
A baby boy was injured during birth when his shoulder became lodged against his mother's pelvis during delivery (known as shoulder dystocia). Alleged improper maneuvers by the OB/GYN stretched his brachial plexus nerves and resulted in permanent injury. He was never able to use one of his arms. The case went to trial in Catawba County in February, 2001, and resulted in a defense verdict.
Medical Malpractice / Alleged Misdiagnosis of Ocular Melanoma -- Death
In February, 2002, a 39 year old woman went to an ophthalmologist for inflammation of her eye. She had seen the same ophthalmologist four times in 1997 for a similar problem. The ophthalmologist diagnosed her with allergic conjunctivitis. She returned two more times with the same problem. On the third visit in 2002, the ophthalmologist changed his diagnosis to episcleritis, which is an inflammation of the surface of the eye. Though her eye cleared up briefly, the inflammation soon returned. She returned to the ophthalmologist who again diagnosed and treated her for episcleritis. She treated with the ophthalmologist for a total of 7 visits over 7 months in 2002. The ophthalmologist used a slit lamp, which magnifies the surface of the eye, to diagnose the patient's condition. However, he never dilated to look inside her eyes using other common ophthalmologic tools. In June, 2003, the patient lost part of her vision. She went to another doctor who dilated her eye, looked inside, and saw a tumor which was diagnosed as ocular melanoma. Despite removal of the eye and subsequent chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the cancer had spread, which resulted in her death in 2006. Experts testified that the ophthalmologist should have done a complete eye exam involving the dilation of her pupils and examination of the interior of the eye, since the patient's repeated problems could be a signal of problems inside the eye. Furthermore, that had the tumor been found in 2002, that the patient probably would have survived. The case went to trial in Guilford County in March, 2009, and resulted in a defense verdict. Defense experts testified there was no reason to look inside the patient's eye and, even if the tumor had been found earlier, that the patient would not have survived the cancer.
Medical Malpractice / Blindness After Patient Moved During Eye Surgery
During open eye surgery in 1997, while long sharp metal instruments were inside a patient's eye for retinal repairs, the patient "bucked two or three times," which movement caused massive bleeding and other damage. The patient, a 48-year-old man, claimed that the anesthesiologist and the certified registered nurse anesthetist were negligent because they failed to keep the patient from moving during this delicate surgery. The patient's vision in his left eye is limited to minimal light perception. The case settled at mediation in early 2001 for $285,000.
Medical Malpractice / Birth Trauma -- Shoulder Dystocia -- Erb's Palsy -- Brachial Plexus Injury
During delivery in October 1995, a baby's shoulder became stuck on her mother's pelvic bone (known as "shoulder dystocia"). Due to the improper and excessive lateral traction applied to the baby's head during delivery, the child's brachial plexus nerves near his spine were irreparably stretched, permanently resulting in Erb's Palsy or Klumke's Palsy (sometimes known as brachial plexus palsy). The case settled at mediation in December 2001 for a confidential amount.