Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Decedent, age 49 at the time of his death, underwent an arthroscopy with synovectomy operative procedure on his left knee in 2006. Eight days post-op defendant orthopedic surgeon diagnosed decedent with an acute deep venous thrombosis involving the gastrocnemius veins of the left lower extremity. He prescribed Lovenox and Coumadin to prevent the further development of DVT and a potentially fatal pulmonary embolus. Decedent remained on anticoagulation therapy for three months with no complications.

In 2008 the same surgeon performed an arthroscopy with an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with hamstring autograft operative procedure on the decedent’s same knee. He was not placed on anticoagulation prophylaxis following the surgery. Six days post-op he acutely developed difficulty breathing with choking, chest pain and syncope. After initially recovering, while being transported to the hospital he stopped breathing and was noted to be with pulseless electrical activity. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at the hospital.

Plaintiff’s experts opined that decedent was at a higher than standard risk for a potentially fatal PE given his demonstrated history of DVT following the first surgery. They further opined that the second surgery was longer, involved more blood loss, a longer tourniquet time, decedent was two years older, heavier and less ambulatory; all further increasing the risk for clotting. Given all of the above, plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in failing to advise the decedent that he was at an increased risk for the development of DVT and PE and further negligent in failing to place him on prophylactic anticoagulation.

Virginia residents should be aware that a recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services covering the 15 percent of the U.S. population enrolled in Medicare found that each month one out of seven Medicare hospital patients is injured-and an estimated 15,000 are killed-by harmful medical practice. Moreover, treating the consequences of these medical errors cost Medicare approximately $324 million a month, which amounts to 3.5 percent of all Medicare expenditures for inpatient care. Another recent study looked at the incidence of avoidable medical errors across the entire U.S. population and concluded that they affected 1.5 million people and cost the economy $19.5 billion in 2008. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that almost 100,000 Americans now die from hospital-acquired infections alone, most of which are preventable.

These recent studies are in addition to the landmark study conducted over twelve years ago by the Institute of Medicine showing that medical errors in U.S. hospitals kill up to 98,000 Americans a year. In 2000, another estimate in the Journal of the American Medical Association put the total annual death toll at 250,000. It included fatalities resulting from unnecessary surgery, hospital-acquired infections, and other instances of harmful medical practice.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined 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.

According to a news reports, the federal government will pay $2.3 million to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit involving a Virginia child born with neurological damage at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. The parents of the child alleged that inadequate care at the hospital caused their child to be born with developmental disabilities. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that when the mother was admitted to Portsmouth Naval Hospital with severe cramping in her lower abdomen at 35 weeks pregnant, she was moved to a triage room and connected to a fetal heart monitor that showed abnormalities indicating the fetus was under stress. Instead of notifying a doctor, the staff left her for more than an hour without any intervention. Approximately 2-1/2 hours after she was admitted, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section that showed the placenta had detached from the uterine wall, causing a loss of oxygen to the fetus that led to neurological injuries that are extensive, severe. Unfortunately, the damage to the infant’s brain is permanent.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases, including those against physicians and nurses employed by the federal government. 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.

Virginia residents should be aware that a recent study has shown that patients in hospitals where nurses work long hours are much more likely to die of pneumonia and heart attack. In most U.S. hospitals, nurses work 12-hour shifts exclusively, a trend that began during the 1980’s due to nationwide nursing shortages, the authors of the new study explained. The study went on to state that although many nurses like these schedules because of the compressed nature of the work week, the long schedule, as well as shift work in general, leads to sleep deprivation. “Alertness and vigilance required for providing good nursing care depend upon having an adequate duration of quality sleep and rest, and long work hours can impact the quality of nursing care and can increase the potential for error,” an author of the study stated. “Nursing work hours may also be increasing to compensate for decreasing physician work hours in hospitals because the medical profession has taken steps to limit the hours a physician-in-training may work, whereas nursing has not taken similar steps,” the author added. Along with long work hours, the work schedule factor most frequently linked with patient deaths was lack of time off the job.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases, including those involving nursing malpractice. 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.

Virginia residents should be aware that according to recently released study, as many as 75 percent of hospital tests are not followed up on and this failure can have serious consequences for patients, including delayed or missed diagnoses and even death. Researchers analyzed 12 international studies and found that between 20 percent and 61 percent of inpatient test results, and between 1 percent and 75 percent of tests on emergency care patients, were not followed up on after patients were discharged. Follow-up was least likely for critical test results and results for patients moving between health care settings, such as from inpatient to outpatient care or to general practice. Rates of missed results were equally high for paper-based records systems, fully electronic systems and those that used a combination of paper and electronic records.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of combined experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases, including those involving injury or death stemming from a failure to follow up on critical tests. 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.

A jury in Norfolk, Virginia recently awarded a doctor beaten by a patient in a Virginia Beach psychiatric clinic a $5.35 million judgment. The award was against Psychiatric Solutions Inc. and First Hospital Corp. of Virginia Beach, the companies that own and operate the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, a 100-bed facility on First Colonial Road where the beating happened.

According to court records, the doctor was injured by the patient after the patient accused him of stealing. During trial, the doctor’s lawyer argued that the facility staff members should have known the patient was dangerous and prevented the injury to his client because of the patient’s previous behavior. The patient had earlier confronted the doctor on two separate occasions threatening personal injury before he actually attacked the doctor, fracturing his skull and eye socket and causing a concussion.

The doctor is still only able to work part time, and is not fully recovered. A spokesman for the defendants said that although the companies continue to dispute liability in the matter and might appeal, they are “sorry for [the doctor’s] injuries from the incident.” The judgment includes $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

In Virginia, residents (“doctors-in-training”) at teaching hospitals may be immune from civil liability based on the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity. National medical research, however, increasingly supports the long-held concern that lax supervision of residents at teaching hospitals contributes to patient harm, even death. “Teaching hospitals differ from other health care institutions at the systems level, with potential implications for patient safety,” according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. “Teaching hospitals require inexperienced providers to work long shifts caring for large numbers of patients with complex illnesses.”

Researchers surveyed nearly 700 residents from about 40 clinical areas at two teaching hospitals and found that about half of the residents reported treating patients who suffered “adverse events,” or complications. When those residents were asked whether they caused the error, roughly one-fourth said yes. Most complications were considered significant, and inadequate supervision was often cited as a contributing factor, researchers said. “The multiple caregivers in these settings are sometimes sub-optimally coordinated or lack adequate supervision. This creates potential challenges for patient safety,” researchers wrote.

Two years later, another study in the Archives analyzed data from nearly 900 malpractice claims and found 240 in which residents “played an important role in harmful errors.” The mistakes arose in more than 20 clinical areas and, for most patients, the errors caused “significant” or “major” physical harm or death. Negligent supervision – either by faculty physicians or upper-level residents – accounted for over half of the cases of resident error, researchers found. The mistakes seen in the malpractice cases were the “tip of the iceberg,” they added, noting that resident errors have gone largely unstudied. Best practices receive little evaluation and accreditation standards for supervision are lacking, the researchers said. “Our data underscore the importance of appropriate supervision,” they added.

A major federal study released in November 2010 found that one in seven Medicare patients are harmed while in a U.S. hospital, and 15,000 die each month as a result of malpractice by hospitals and their employees. The report by the Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office found that 44 percent of the disclosed errors were preventable and that they unnecessarily cost taxpayers approximately $4.4 billion per year. The groundbreaking report was based on the findings of a team of doctors who reviewed the records of 780 Medicare patients who were in a U.S. hospital during October 2008, and are considered reliable enough to draw conclusions about all Medicare patients who received care in a hospital.

The report called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to toughen penalties for hospitals that provide substandard care rather than reward them with increased billings. The report adds weight to federal health reform provisions that withhold payment for avoidable re-admissions, and calls for stronger penalties against hospitals that fail to follow proven best medical practices.

The law firm of Pierce & Thornton specializes in medical malpractice litigation throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore. 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.

A jury recently returned a verdict in a class-action lawsuit totaling nearly $619 million against one of the largest nursing home chains in the country. Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc., which owns and operates nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation therapy businesses, and hospice homes, was sued for egregious and repeated violations of health codes in several states and for failing to keep staffing levels adequate. “This is a really strong statement to Skilled Healthcare that they have to follow the law,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney who delivered the closing arguments in the case. “They need to know that they are going to be held responsible.”

Although the jury has returned its verdict, the judge still needs to decide whether the court will issue an order that would require the company to keep staffing as required by law in the future. “I’m so thankful for this,” said the daughter of a former resident, who added that while it may be too late for her father to receive justice, she hopes the lawsuit makes things better for future patients. “We just want our loved ones to be taken care of.”

Pierce & Thornton has handled cases in Virginia, including cases in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore involving nursing home negligence. We are also licensed to practice in North Carolina. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have tried, mediated and settled cases involving the incorrect administration or dosage of medication, falls, bed sores, decubitus ulcers resulting in respiratory arrests, myocardial infarctions, heart attacks, infections, brain damage, paralysis and wrongful death. We encourage you to contact our firm if you question the care rendered to you, a family member, or friend at a nursing, assisted living, rehabilitation therapy, or hospice facility.

A jury in Chesapeake, Virginia awarded a woman $2.5 million in a medical malpractice trial after agreeing with her contention that her debilitating stroke was due to complications caused by a doctor misdiagnosing her diverticulitis. The patient, now 52, suffered brain damage and remains unable to work as a secretary-bookkeeper as a result of the physician’s medical negligence. The jury’s verdict will be reduced to $1.65 million under a Virginia law capping medical malpractice awards.

Pierce & Thornton has handled numerous cases throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including cases in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Suffolk, and the Eastern Shore involving the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a disease or disorder by a physician, including the failure to diagnose and treat various types of cancers. The attorneys at Pierce & Thornton have nearly 50 years of experience in litigating all types of medical malpractice cases. We encourage you to contact our firm if you question the medical care rendered to you, a family member, or friend.