An Oklahoma medical malpractice jury found in favor of the plaintiffs on March 21, 2019, awarding the family of a 19-year-old who died as a result of hospital medical malpractice in the emergency room $6,190,000 for the teenager’s wrongful death.
The Underlying Facts
While attending college during her sophomore year, the young woman and her boyfriend were in her dormitory room on September 28, 2015 when she complained that she could not breathe. She passed out shortly thereafter, and her boyfriend called 911.
The paramedic who arrived at the woman’s dorm room documented that the woman had fainted and that she had shortness of breath, chest pain, low oxygen saturation, a fast heart rate, and a fast breathing rate before she was transported to the defendant hospital. All of these symptoms are consistent with the woman having a pulmonary embolism. In addition, the woman was on birth control, which is associated with a increased risk of pulmonary embolism.
When the woman arrived at the emergency department of the defendant hospital, the only medical provider on duty was a family nurse practitioner, who had never taken any courses in acute care or emergency medicine. Nonetheless, the defendant hospital had granted her privileges eight months earlier to provide care and treatment to acutely and critically ill patients in the hospital’s emergency department. The family nurse practitioner reportedly testified at trial that she was often the only medical provider in the emergency department of the defendant hospital.
Initially, the family nurse practitioner ordered a chest CT scan and a urinalysis. The testng of the urine sample was reported presumptive positive for methamphetamine but negative for amphetamine. The family nurse practitioner reportedly was aware that the test result may have been inaccurate, and nurses at the defendant hospital observed no unusual behavior consistent with someone on methamphetamine. The woman’s mother insisted on another urine test, which was reported as negative for methamphetamine. Despite the negative second urine test, the family nurse practitioner cancelled the chest CT scan that would have diagnosed the woman’s pulmonary embolism and instead diagnosed the woman with methamphetamine use and admitted her overnight.
Eight hours after the woman had arrived at the defendant hospital, the family nurse practitioner finally ordered a chest CT scan but only after she consulted by telephone with another medical provider. However, the family nurse practitioner failed to order the scan to be performed and reported on a stat basis. Therefore, the radiologist did not read and report the results back to the family nurse practitioner until nearly two hours after the CT scan was ordered. The CT scan showed pulmonary emboli in both lungs. The woman was transferred to another hospital where she given the clot-busting drug tPA, but she died within two hours after arrival.
The woman had not received any treatment for her pulmonary emboli during the eleven hours she was in the defendant hospital. An autopsy confirmed that the woman had not taken any drugs.
Evidence at trial showed that the family nurse practitioner had been terminated by the defendant hospital for “quality/safety concerns” twenty-seven days before she treated the woman in the emergency department, which termination was effective three days after she treated the woman because her employment contract required thirty days notice for termination. The defendant hospital allegedly had the family nurse practitioner continue to work because the defendant hospital would have had to pay her during the thirty-day period anyway.
The plaintiffs’ Oklahoma medical malpractice attorney stated after the Oklahoma medical malpractice wrongful death jury returned its verdict, “The evidence at trial showed [the woman] had all the classic symptoms of a pulmonary embolism which could have been promptly diagnosed with a simple blood test and CT scan. The evidence at trial showed that had she been diagnosed and treated during the first eight hours she would have survived … the family is hopeful that the lawsuit and verdict will lead to changes at [the defendant hospital] to ensure there are appropriately qualified medical providers at all Oklahoma hospitals so this kind of tragedy does not happen to another family.”
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm (or worse) while in a hospital in Oklahoma or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in Oklahoma or in your U.S. state who may investigate your hospital negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a hospital malpractice case, if appropriate.
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