On March 6, 2020, a Florida medical malpractice wrongful death jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $30 million, finding one of the defendant orthopedic doctors liable for 5% of the verdict and the other defendant orthopedic doctor responsible for 95% of the verdict. The jury awarded $20 million to the decedent’s husband for his past mental pain and suffering and for the loss of his wife’s companionship and protection, and an additional $10 million for future such losses.
The decedent was retired (therefore there was no loss of income claim) and in her 70s when she fractured her ankle in January 2016. She originally was seen by the defendant orthopedic doctor who was found 5% liable, who determined that she needed surgery but that her swelling would need to be reduced before the surgery could be scheduled. Due to the decedent’s risk factors for developing deep vein thrombosis, the defendant doctor prescribed blood pressure medication and blood thinners for 21 days. The defendant doctor also instructed the decedent to intermittently put pressure on her affected leg to avoid the development of a blood clot in her leg.
The decedent was admitted to a rehab facility for an initial nine-day stay during which she did not receive anticoagulant medication (the original defendant doctor was the decedent’s doctor while she was in the rehab facility). As the plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer stated after the verdict, “So before she leaves the hospital, an orthopedic writes a note saying that she’s going to need anticoagulants, which she is going to need for the next 21 days. So then she is transferred to St. Anne’s Rehab. When she reaches St. Anne’s nursing home, she doesn’t get the DVT prophylaxis of any kind. Yet she still has the same risk factors … It would be different if he [the orthopedic doctor] left the hospital and never saw her again. But in this case, she came back to his hospital, and he knew she was not getting it and he knew she still needed it. And he didn’t even pick up the phone to figure out why [s]he wasn’t getting it and what was he going to do about protecting her?”
After the decedent’s initial stay at the rehab facility, she was returned to the same rehab facility for a second inpatient stay, where the other defendant doctor was responsible for her medical care. On February 7, 2016 (the morning of the decedent’s death), the defendant doctor was informed that the decedent had severe breathing problems and pneumonia, for which the defendant doctor prescribed Robitussin. The decedent died shortly afterwards. An autopsy determined that the decedent died as a result of pulmonary embolism.
The defendant doctor contended that he wanted to prescribe anticoagulants for the decedent but that the decedent refused the medication (there was no documentation in the decedent’s medical records regarding same). The plaintiff’s Florida medical malpractice lawyer stated, “If she accepted the DVT prophylaxis in the hospital three days earlier, why would she refuse it at St. Anne’s? That wouldn’t make any sense.”
Alfredo Victor Fernandez vs. Baptist Health Medical Group Orthopedics, Francisco A. Cruz, Charles Jordan, Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida, Case No.: 2018-013104-CA-01.
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