Lamson, Dugan and Murray, LLP, Attorneys at Law

No Sweeping Under the Rug

Posted in Health Care Law, Litigation Tips, Medical Malpractice, Risk Management, Tort Reform

It happed in California several weeks ago.   After 2 ½ days of jury deliberation, the jury awarded a $4 million verdict against a hospital for allegedly covering up the cause of the post-operative death of a patient.  The jury did not find that the hospital committed malpractice and did not award punitive damages (which cannot be awarded in Nebraska).

The patient had a surgical cervical disc.  Post operatively he had trouble with swallowing and breathing and his voice changed.  The attorneys for the patient alleged these are classical signs of hematoma.  The surgeon treated the patient for a sore throat but the bleeding condition progressed to the need for emergency surgery and the patient ultimately died in the ED.  Allegedly the surgeon told the wife the patient’s heart stopped.  The risk manager of the hospital requested an autopsy which concluded the patient died of a fatty liver.  This was told to the surviving spouse.  A second autopsy requested by the family revealed the cause of death was the post-op bleed.

The jury voted 10-2 that the hospital conspired to commit fraud and awarded the damages as emotional distress.  The unsuccessful malpractice claim vote was 8-4 (plaintiff needed nine votes to prevail).

We can deal with the facts, good or bad.  It is impossible to deal with untruths and juries will see through them more often than not.

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