January 23, 2013

162017_132140396847214_292624_nOn January 17, 2013, a medical malpractice jury in a conservative jurisdiction in Maryland returned a verdict in favor of the surviving daughter of a patient and the patient’s estate for the alleged unnecessary paralysis and subsequent death of a 77-year-old woman who had arrived at a hospital emergency room by ambulance after falling and injuring her back. The woman was admitted into the hospital from the emergency room and came under the care of an internist.

A CT scan performed on the woman at the request of the internist showed at least one fractured vertebra in the woman’s back. The radiologist who performed the CT scan allegedly telephoned the internist and advised him of the results of the CT scan and emphasized the importance that the woman should be immobilized to prevent paralysis. The internist, according to the medical malpractice lawsuit and the internist’s own admission, failed to immobilize his patient. The woman complained about pain upon movement and three days later told her nurses that she was unable to move her legs. An MRI confirmed that the woman’s condition had deteriorated and she was transported to a regional hospital for care, where she underwent spinal fusion surgery. A post-surgical staph infection led to her death almost four months later.

The original medical malpractice case was filed against the radiologist, the internist, and others. On the first day of trial, the medical malpractice defendants moved to preclude the plaintiff’s medical experts from testifying, which the trial judge granted and then entered judgment in favor of the medical malpractice defendants. The plaintiff appealed and the appellate court reversed the trial judge’s ruling and remanded the case back to the lower court for a jury trial.

The jury deliberated for seven hours following a two-week trial before rendering its verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that the internist breached the standard of care in his treatment of the woman that led to the need for surgery and to the staph infection that led to her death, but the medical malpractice jury determined the radiologist to be not liable for the woman’s death (the internist testified that he did not recall receiving a telephone call from the radiologist). The medical malpractice jury awarded the woman’s estate $131,000 for her medical expenses, $10,000 for her funeral expenses, and $750,000 for the woman’s pain and suffering due to the medical negligence. The medical malpractice jury awarded the woman’s daughter $450,000 for her mental anguish and non-economic damages as a result of her mother’s injuries and death.

The medical malpractice defendant’s attorney has indicated the likelihood of an appeal, stating that the medical malpractice jury’s verdict was based on sympathy for the plaintiff and not based on the medical facts, claiming that the woman would have probably required back surgery in any event.

Source: The Daily Record, January 22, 2013. Wantz, et al. v. Afzal, M.D., et al., Circuit Court for Frederick County, Case No. 10-C-08-1793.

If you may be the victim of medical malpractice in Maryland or in another state in the U.S., you should promptly seek to consult with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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