Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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St. Louis county crash leads to fatality for one man and serious injuries for another.

On May 14, 2011 at approximately 11:50 p.m., 51 year old John Casalone of St. Louis was operating a 2000 Toyota Camry traveling northbound on I-55, about 100 feet north of Union Road. At that said time and place, 46 year old Hai Pham also of St. Louis was the operator of a 2006 Toyota Sienna traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of I-55.

Pham’s vehicle was partially in lanes one and two of northbound I-55. Due to Pham traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of I-55, he struck the vehicle of John Casalone head on.

John Casalone was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash by Brian Torno with Mehlville Fire Department at 11:59 p.m.; next of kin was notified. Casalone was transported to the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office by the St. Louis medical examiner. The at-fault driver, Hai Pham was taken to St. Anthony’s Medical Center by Lemay Ambulance with serious injuries.

Both vehicles involved in the crash received total damage and were towed from the scene of the crash by Squires Towing. The two drivers involved in this crash were not wearing their safety devices. This crash was investigated by Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper B. Hall of Troop C.

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HIV-positive inmate in St. Louis City jail was denied his medication for 17 days and has filed a personal injury suit accordingly.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit on Thursday, November 18th, 2010. The lawsuit alleges that John Doe Plaintiff was deprived of his rights at the Justice Center in downtown St. Louis as well as the Medium Security Institution on Hall Street. The ACLU claims that Plaintiff, an HIV-positive inmate, was deprived of his medications for 17 days and received only sporadic care after that.

The suit names the city and a contractor, Correctional Medical Services, as defendants along with Eugene Stubblefield, the jail superintendent, and two CMS physicians, Drs. Brenda Mallard and Susan Singer. Nancy Kistler, Deputy City Counselor responded to the suit, “Contrary to the claims of the ACLU, the records of the inmate in question reflect that he received adequate medical care consistent with his constitutional rights.”

Plaintiff was detained in March 2010 and was released in mid November 2010. The suit states that Plaintiff had been successfully treated by his doctor prior to his incarceration but was deprived of necessary medications once incarcerated even though he informed officials of his condition. His physician had faxed the jail information about medication and dosages prior to Plaintiff’s detainment.

Plaintiff received only Tylenol, not until the 11th day, and did not get his HIV medications until the 17th day. Thereafter, the suit states, Plaintiff received only sporadic treatment which caused continuing effects to his health. Test of Plaintiff’s current medical condition are pending.

This is only the most recent of times in which the medical care in St. Louis city jails has been brought into question. The city jails are already subject of numerous wrongful death lawsuits.

In early November, 2010, 37 year old inmate Vanessa Evans died at the city jail after having trouble breathing in her jail cell. Relatives of the woman believe she was not treated with necessary urgency and severity as she should have been given her medical history, including asthma.

31 year old inmate Courtland Lucas collapsed from heart failure and died May 25, 2009. Lavonda Kimble, 30, suffered an acute asthma attack and died April 11, 2007. Wrongful death suits regarding these individuals are pending.

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The A.W. Smith Law Firm attained a $4.75 million settlement in a birth injury case earlier in 2010.

*The terms of the settlement required confidentiality regarding the names and all indicators of the defendants, so those details have been removed from this blog.

Plaintiffs John and Jane Doe went to the hospital to have their first child delivered on August 20, 2007. Jane Doe was in labor for 16 hours before finally giving birth. During that time, there were indications that the baby was going through periods of distress. After birth, it was determined that Baby Doe was deprived of oxygen while still in the uterus long enough for him to develop severe cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a disease that is untreatable and can develop during child birth due to lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain. Often, it can be easily prevented by monitoring the fetus’s fetal heart rate on a monitor. Due to the amount of time that Baby Doe was deprived of oxygen, he suffers from not only cerebral palsy, but seizures, persistent encephalopathy, diffuse brain atrophy, marked hypotonia in the trunk and lower limbs, and brisk deep tendon reflexes.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the hospital, the obstetrician (OBGYN), and the birthing center nurse. Plaintiffs claimed that the hospital failed to properly use the fetal monitoring equipment, failed to recognize the signs of Baby Doe’s distress, failed to have staff on hand that knew how to address the health problems once they had been realized, and failed to perform an emergency C-section.

The case was settled in early 2010 for $4,750,000.
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Missouri Highway 5 head-on collision has left one driver dead and the other seriously injured. Missouri Highway Patrol Troop I responded to a deadly car accident Thursday around 2 pm on Missouri Highway 5. Driver Kathleen Matney, 48, Shawnee, KS, was traveling northbound in a 2010 Toyota SUV. William Hinkley, 64, Springfield, MO, was traveling southbound, and crossed the center line, hitting Matney head-on. Hinkely was driving a 1996 Lincoln Towncar. Matney was taken to the Lake Ozark Hospital in serious condition. Hinkley was pronounced at the scene by the Laclede County Sheriff.

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The Illinois Supreme Court made a ruling this week that ended caps on pain and suffering in medical malpractice awards. The ruling could be a very positive thing for victims of medical malpractice in Missouri, where a similar debate over whether or not the current $350,000 caps is constitutional is taking place.

One attorney who argued before the Missouri Supreme Court claimed that limiting non-economic damages should be ruled unconstitutional. He intends to formally notify the Missouri Supreme Court of the ruling in Illinois in hopes that it will encourage the judges to also remove the cap in Missouri.

Many attorneys and victims think the cap should be lifted because it indirectly leads to placing a higher value on wealthy people’s lives than poor peoples. While families of wealthy victims can recover more money from lost wages, poor people recover very little in the form of lost wages, thus making their suits worth less.

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Today is an important day for the healthcare industry, victims of medical malpractice, and their attorneys in Missouri. The Missouri Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in a case filed by Mary and James Klotz of Arnold, Missouri which seeks to overturn a law that caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice law suits.

If the courts overturn the law, it will definitely stir up things up down at the capital. The courtroom is expected to be completely full today, as everyone from Missouri medical schools, to the Chamber of Commerce has submitted briefs expressing their opinions on the matter to the court. The court will hear arguments today and rule at a later date.

The suit is a product of Dewayne and Suzanne Blankenship’s $6 million verdict in a wrongful death suit for the medical malpractice suit filed on behalf of their son, Dylan. Dylan died at 6 months old after not being treated for a blood infection called meningococcemia. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, but the doctors did not administer antibiotics, or even intravenous fluids.

Although they received the $6,000,000 verdict, the Blankenships will never see beyond $350,000 for pain and suffering given the current law. James Klotz was also awarded more than the limits when his pacemaker became infected. Both parties have attested that they want to see things changed. Many think the law is unfair because the cap causes cases to be ‘pre-judged’ before they even going to trial.

The 2005 law, which was part of Governor Blunt’s efforts to lower costs in medical malpractice law suits, sets the limit a malpractice victim can be awarded for pain and suffering at $350,000. Blunt argued that the high costs of medical malpractice suits, and thus the risk of practicing medicine in Missouri, were running doctors out of the state. Missouri medical malpractice attorneys and victims, however, say that the law discriminates primarily against poor victims of medical malpractice, and that there were other causes of high medical malpractice insurance back in 2005 when the law was written.

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An Ozark couple has recently settled their Missouri medical malpractice suit with the University of Missouri Hospital for $2.5 million.

Susan Martin, now 49, was being treated at the hospital in Columbia, Missouri for dehydration due to a gastrointestinal -related condition. In an effort to rehydrate her, doctors ordered an IV of nutrients. The IV was intended to go into a subclavian vein, but was mistakenly put in her subclavian artery. This mistake caused fatty blockages to flow to Martin’s brain for five days straight. The blockages caused serious and permanent damage to Martin, including numerous devastating strokes and other neurological and cognitive destruction.

Martin is now physically and mentally handicapped. The doctors argued that the strokes and other problems could have been caused by pre-existing conditions, but Martin’s Missouri personal injury attorney argued that it was due to the direct negligence of her medical care providers.

The University Hospital made no comment regarding this Missouri medical malpractice suit.

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Missouri Medical Malpractice Attorney Aaron W. Smith, based out of Columbia, Missouri, secured a $2,000,000 award for a case involving an unnecessary and unsafe medical procedure in southern Missouri.

Plaintiff “McGinnis”, a 38-year-old man, was admitted to Wesley Medical Center, with severe right-sided abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. McGinnis, who weighed 420 pounds, had been suffering from these symptoms for the past two months. He believed that the symptoms were similar to a gallstone attack he had suffered eight year earlier, which ultimately required his bladder be removed.

A gastroenterologist (the defendant) at the Medical Center ordered a full lab work up with both upper and lower endoscopies. None of the tests were conclusive, and McGinnis continued to have pain, so the gastroenterologist suggested an endoscopic procedure called an ERCP. This, the doctor claimed, would allow them to see if McGinnis was suffering from a gallstone that obstructing the common bile duct.

The defendant advised McGinnis that if he did have an obstruction of the duct that it could be life threatening. However, the defendant did not explain to McGinnis that the ERCP is one of the most technically difficult endoscopic procedures to perform, and that it also carries the highest likelihood of both complications and death from the procedure. McGinnis was also not advised that the endoscopy should be avoided if the likelihood of a gallstone was low, or if there is a high risk of complications from the surgery.

During the procedure, the defendant encountered complications due to the plaintiff’s size and weight, and was unable to locate the common bile duct on fluoroscopy. Immediately following the procedure, the plaintiff began to experience extreme abdominal pain and acute pancreatitis. Five days after the procedure, McGinnnis died of cardiomyopathy, pulmonary embolus and acute necrotizing pancreatitis.

During the trial, the plaintiff’s injury attorney, Aaron W. Smith, alleged that the ERCP was not necessary, that the defendant didn’t uphold the expected standard of care when he convinced the plaintiff to have the endoscopy, or when he was performing the procedure, and that alternative procedures should have been discussed and offered to the patient.

The trial resulted in a $2,000,000 verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
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The A.W. Smith Law Firm secured a $280,000 settlement in a Missouri medical malpractice case in which a doctor misdiagnosed a patient’s heart attack as heartburn.

On February 2, 2002, at 11:45 pm a 55-year-old patient went to a rural hospital complaining of mid-upper epigastric pain with a history of hiatal hernia. After waiting for 20 minutes, the patient went back to the nurses’ station and told the triage nurse that she was now experiencing chest pain radiating into both of her arms. The hospital put their chest pain protocol into action, and the patient was taken for an emergency assessment.

The hospital’s protocol included two diagnostic examinations, both key in diagnosing a heart attack: an EKG and a blood test for the cardiac enzyme Troponin I. The EKG demonstrated a past heart attack, which plaintiff’s experts described as “age indeterminate.” The troponin I test showed elevated levels of enzymes in the blood stream. Plaintiff’s experts testified any elevation of enzymes required serial Troponin tests prior to discharge from the hospital.

After reviewing the test results, the doctor examined the patient and ordered a GI cocktail – a mixture of antiacid and lidocaine used to relieve heartburn, which the doctor claimed was to determine if the pain was coming from chest problems or heartburn. The patient reported that the pain in her chest was gone, and the doctor discharged her with a prescription for Prevacid – a medication commonly used to treat heartburn.

Five days later, the patient was found dead. The plaintiff’s Missouri injury attorney, Aaron W. Smith, alleged the doctor missed the correct diagnosis of a heart attack. Plaintiff’s experts opined that due to the initial test results, and the patient’s health history, she should have been admitted into the hospital for further cardiac assessment. Furthermore, they believed the decedent likely died of another heart attack, five days after her original doctor’s visit. The medical malpractice attorney also argued that the doctor missed the correct diagnosis of heart attack, and that the ER nurse was at fault for allowing the patient to be discharged, given her EKG and Troponin I results.

The case was settled for $280,000 about a week before trial.
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A diabetic patient claimed that he was not properly cared for during and after a routine fasting blood test causing hypoglycemia and disorientation, resulting in a single-car rollover accident, his need for surgery and his inability to work, resulting in a $400,000 settlement.

The patient, a 53-year-old man with diabetes, had been assigned to take a fasting blood test which required him to not eat the night prior and morning of the test, or take his insulin the morning of. He was instructed not to take his insulin because it is used to lower blood sugar levels in response to eating and taking insulin without eating can induce hypoglycemia.

When the plaintiff arrived at the clinic for his blood test he was immediately taken to do the blood work, a process which took approximately ten minutes, and then released. The plaintiff left the office, and at 8:24 a.m. the results indicated that his blood sugar levels were below 50 mg/dl, what is considered to be a ‘panic level’. At 9a.m. a patient came into the office and told clinic employees that there was a man in the parking lot who was confused and disoriented. By the time the employees went to the parking lot, another patient reported a man with similar symptoms had just driven away. At 9:10a.m. the sheriff called the plaintiff’s wife to inform her that her husband had been involved in a single-car rollover crash. Paramedics reported that the plaintiff’s blood sugar levels were at 24 mg/dl. The plaintiff’s wife took him to a hospital where he was diagnosed with having a stable T12 compression fracture. He was observed for several days and then released.

A suit was filed claiming that the clinic had not properly diagnosed the plaintiff’s ‘hypoglycemic unawareness’ (a documented illness where a patient becomes hypoglycemic, but doesn’t realize their impaired mental state) and that the clinic employees were untrained and unqualified at recognizing signs of the illness. The plaintiff also claimed that the clinic lacked policies and procedures for testing diabetic patients, given that they know diabetic patients are at high risk for hypoglycemia. The case asserted diabetic patients should be given a snack and test results should be reviewed before they are allowed to leave the testing facility. The clinic argued that the patient must have taken his insulin, disregarding his doctor’s orders, to produce a drop that quickly in blood sugar levels, and that it was the patients responsibility to understand their disease and risks.

The A.W. Smith Law Firm reached a settlement about a month before trial for $400,000.
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