A Virginia wrongful death case alleging medical malpractice was recently settled by the attorneys of Pierce & Thornton. The facts of the case involve the death of a 40 year old man who suffered a fracture of his tibia after being struck by a tree. He was evaluated in an emergency department, diagnosed with a fracture and referred to an orthopedist. Over the course of the next several days he experienced chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath and consulted with his PCP who arrived at a presumptive diagnosis of pneumonia and admitted him to the hospital for observation and treatment.
On the second day of his hospital admission a venous Doppler study revealed a deep venous thrombosis in his lower extremity. He was placed on anticoagulation therapy. Lab work revealed compromised kidney function thus a CT of the chest with contrast, which could definitively diagnose pulmonary emboli, was contraindicated. The decedent’s overall medical condition continued to worsen and his physicians continued to work under the presumptive diagnosis of pneumonia.
On the fourth day of admission, the decision was made to perform an open lung biopsy to diagnose the source of the decedent’s continued decline. Heparin therapy was stopped in an anticipation of the surgery. On the day of the scheduled surgery, it was determined that decedent needed to undergo dialysis. The surgery was postponed until the following day. The Heparin was not restarted and the decedent suffered a pulmonary embolus prior to the performance of the surgery the next morning, resulting in his death.
Plaintiff contended that the presumptive diagnosis of pneumonia was wrong and that decedent was showering premonitory pulmonary emboli that ultimately culminated in the fatal pulmonary embolus. Plaintiff further contended that studies should have been performed to rule out pulmonary emboli prior to stopping the Heparin and that the open lung biopsy should not have been ordered. Additionally, the Heparin should have been resumed when the surgery was postponed.
Defendants contended that there was no evidence to suggest the existence of premonitory pulmonary emboli either clinically during the decedent’s hospitalization or based upon autopsy findings and that decedent was, in fact, suffering from pneumonia and progressive multi system organ failure and that he was going to die without the PE. Defendants further contended that it was unlikely that the PE originated from the previously diagnosed DVT in the lower extremity and that, in fact, it originated at the site of the placement of the dialysis catheter which was necessary to stabilize him for surgery. Defendants further contended that no one could say that the PE would not have occurred if the Heparin had been restarted. The case eventually settled for $1,750,000 (the malpractice cap in effect at the time of the incident was $1,850,000.) The beneficiaries were the decedent’s wife and three adult children.
The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The firm associates on cases throughout the United States. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases. They have obtained some of the largest jury verdicts and mediation settlements in Virginia over the past several years. We encourage you to contact our firm if you question the medical care rendered to you, a family member, or friend. If we can help you, we will. Your consultation is free.