Medical Malpractice Case Summaries
Allegheny County PA: Our client was a 45-year-old woman who decided to go to the emergency room after experiencing severe abdominal pain. The woman was diagnosed as having a hole in her colon. The hole was allowing bowel fluid and excrement to leak into her stomach. She did not know of this diagnosis at the time, but told the ER doctor that the pain had begun four days prior and that it was becoming exponentially worse each day. The emergency room physician examined the woman and found that she had guarding, rebound, and tenderness. All three of these symptoms are signs of surgical problems within the abdomen. The ER doctor ordered a CT scan and blood work and was then done with his shift. A second ER doctor gave the woman pain meds that masked the woman’s symptoms. That doctor admitted the woman, but never contacted a surgeon. For the next three days, the woman was seen by a physician’s assistant who was supposed to be supervised by doctors, but doctors never spoke to the P.A. about the woman’s condition. Then a third physician, a gastroenterologist, examined her, finding the same symptoms, but still no one called a surgeon. Instead, he prescribed a colonoscopy, which requires the patient to drink “bowel prep,” a fluid that cleans the colon. After drinking the bowel prep, the woman’s organs began failing, her lungs stopped working, her kidneys failed, and she went into septic shock. Still, no surgeon was called. The woman was then Life-Flighted to a second hospital and still no surgeon was called. Her CT scans were misread because of the lack of communication among her doctors. After nearly a week at the second hospital, a new doctor ordered a new CT scan and quickly called a surgeon after seeing the results. Upon surgery, the woman had at least five liters of excrement, pus, and infected fluid removed from her stomach. The woman was unable to survive the surgery. Had she been correctly treated, she would have survived the illness and not have died at the young age of only 45. We were able to secure a favorable outcome for her husband of fifteen years.
Erie County PA: Our client was a 60-year-old married man whose blood tests revealed abnormal kidney function. It was found that our client had an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA. The physician who performed the surgery did not have much experience at the surgical site and failed to give our client two other safer alternatives than the surgery. The anestheiologist also had little experience at the surgical site. Our client suffered from a severe disturbance of his body’s circulation system, resulting in what is known as “acidosis.” Acidosis occurs when there is too much acid in the blood stream. Acidosis disturbs major body functions. The result of the prolonged surgery and acidosis was a catastrophic, yet preventable injury to our client. We were able to obtain a favorable out-of-court settlement for our client so that he can get the care and support he needs.
Erie County PA: Our client was a gentleman at the age of 59. He was gainfully employed and happily married. He occasionally went to a particular walk-in clinic when he had a medical problem. At this clinic, he had been told in the past that he had acid reflux. Then came a day when his symptoms changed. He was at work and developed nausea and chest pain and tingling in his arms. He had to leave work and then pull over in his care trying to get to the doctor. He went to a particular clinic, where he was told he suffered from acid reflux. However, the doctor at the clinic sent him home, reassuring him that he just had bad acid reflux. That evening, when the client’s wife came home, she found him dead on the floor of a heart attack that could have been prevented if he had been sent to the hospital. We were able to obtain an out-of-court settlement favorable to his widow.
Erie County PA: Our client was a gentlemen age 66 and married. He led an active life and was a happy man. However, he suffered from ulcerative colitis. The colitis got bad enough that it did not respond to medicines, and so he had to have surgery to remove part of how bowel. During the surgery, anesthesiologists put in an epidural for pain control, which means placing a tube into the spinal area to use to inject narcotics. When a patient is on an epidural, he must be monitored carefully because the medicines can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure can be fixed, but obviously, it has to be caught to be fixed. The patient was not monitored properly and had a prolonged and serious drop in blood pressure. This led him to have a stroke in his spine and become paralyzed from the waist down. It also affected the surgery, and the new bowel surgery came apart, leading to a multitude of complications like abdominal infections that ultimately ended in his death. We were able to obtain a favorable out-of-court settlement to give at least financial peace to his grieving widow.
Greene County PA – In July of 2010, our client was a 34-year-old, married woman with no significant health problems. Suddenly, she developed a severe headache that came with vomiting and sensitivity to light. Her husband took her to a nearby hospital, where a CT scan was done on her head. The radiologist could not be sure if there was an abnormal mass in the brain and suggested an MRI. However, due to a terrible miscommunication between the radiologist and the emergency room doctor, the client was sent home without an MRI being done. She was told she just had a bad sinus infection. What she really had was a serious brain infection. Due to the negligence of the doctors, the infection consumed a large portion of her brain before the MRI was noticed and done. At that point, she had emergency surgery to clear out the infection, but she was left with permanent brain damage. We were able to settle the matter out of court to make sure that she would be provided for since she was not able to work.
Greene County PA- 23 year old woman had wisdom tooth extraction in the setting of infection without x-ray, antibiotics or informed consent. When she had trouble breathing she went to the emergency room where she was treated with antibiotics by mouth (although she could not swallow) and she was sent home. As a result she nearly died of an airway obstructed by an abscess. She spent 9 days in an ICU on a ventilator and was left with permanent numbness in her face and tongue as well as a scar on her neck. Settled prior to trial.
Fayette County PA – 59 year old man with a non-obstructing kidney stone had multiple ESWL procedures (stones broken up with sound waves). When those failed the urologist tried, unsuccessfully, to remove the stone through an instrument called a ureteroscope. The urologist left the patient with a scarred ureter (the tube that drains urine from the kidney) and a completely obstructed kidney. Despite multiple tests showing an obstructed kidney, the urologist waited 1 and a half years before doing anything. Result was a dead kidney that had to be removed surgically. Case settled before trial.
Blair County (Tyrone) PA – An 85 year old man developed intermittent right-sided headaches with visual changes. Despite being seen by a family practitioner and an ophthalmologist multiple times over the course of four weeks, he went completely, irreversibly blind. Too late, it was discovered that he had typical symptoms of a disease called Temporal Arteritis and that his blindness could have been prevented with steroid medication. The case settled before trial for a confidential sum.
Armstrong County (Kittaning) PA – A 57 year old man was treated for years for high blood pressure (hypertension) by his primary care doctor, without a proper work-up for its cause. No blood or urine tests were ever performed. Ultimately, he became extremely ill and stopped urinating. When testing was finally performed, it became clear that his prostate was blocking the flow of urine from his kidneys and that his kidneys had been destroyed over the course of years. As a result, he needs permanent dialysis. After discovery and depositions of the persons involved took place, the case settled before trial for a confidential sum.
Crawford County (Corry) PA – a 32-year-old woman went to her family doctor complaining of fevers, night sweats, weight loss and mid-thoracic back pain. She was treated with osteopathic manipulation and pain medications over the course of three months. When she complained of leg numbness and tingling she was given Valium for her nerves. Finally, she became paralyzed from the waist down. Her symptoms were found to be due to a condition called spinal osteomyelitis, or infection of the spine. If the condition had been diagnosed immediately, she could have been treated with intravenous antibiotics. Because the osteomyeltitis was so advanced by the time it was discovered, she required extensive surgery and three of her vertebrae had to be removed and her spine is held together with metal hardware. The case settled immediately before trial for a confidential sum.
Allegheny County PA – a 49 year old woman from Pittsburgh underwent gynecologic surgery to remove her uterus. Following her surgery she had continuous abdominal pain. X-rays were finally performed after several months. These showed a retractor over a foot long that had been left behind by the surgeon. The surgical error case settled without a lawsuit being filed.
Erie, PA – a 38-year-old father of two small girls learned that he had a family history of aortic aneurysms, which are weak spots in a blood vessel than can balloon out and burst. His family doctor sent him to have a CT scan of his chest to look for any early signs of the development of this ominous condition. However, the radiologists misread the CT as normal, not once, but twice, each time informing the family doctor that the patient was fine when in fact there was a time bomb ticking away inside this young man’s chest. If the radiologists had properly read the films, the patient could have had a straightforward surgical repair. Instead, disaster struck when the aneurysm ruptured. By that point, the patient had to be rushed into surgery, and had to have much more extensive work done to repair the injuries caused by the rupture. Allowing this catastrophe to happen left the patient with lasting damage, required him to embark on a lifelong course of blood thinners and caused him to suffer a stroke. Our firm filed a medical malpractice case on this gentleman’s behalf and were able to resolve the case successfully without having to go all the way to trial.
Erie PA – a 45-year-old-woman went to the emergency room with the sudden onset of slurred speech. She was diagnosed as having a small stroke, but nobody took immediate steps to figure out why, and so the cause of the problem persisted. By the time the doctors made the diagnosis of carotid artery dissection, her stroke had gotten so much worse that part of her brain had to be surgically removed, leaving her with severe and permanent damage. Our firm filed a lawsuit on her behalf. Prior to trial, the case was successfully resolved through settlement, and she now has the medical and financial resources she needs for help in daily living through a trust on her behalf.
Morgantown, WV- a 44-year-old-woman had surgery in which doctors took a bone graft from her leg to put in her jaw. This required that she be kept put on a breathing machine and sedated for several days while the graft took hold. Unfortunately, even though she was in an intensive care unit, the staff did not pay careful attention to her leg to make sure it was healing properly, and she developed a condition called compartment syndrome, cutting off the blood to her leg while no one noticed. By the time the condition was discovered, she had developed extensive and irreversible damage to the nerves and muscles in her leg. We took her case on, and were able to resolve it for her successfully before trial.
Lawrence County, PA – a young woman from New Castle in her 8th month of pregnancy developed heavy vaginal bleeding and pain from a condition known as placental abruption. Her obstetrician delayed coming into the hospital and delayed in performing a c-section delivery. When the infant was finally delivered, he was in critical condition. The pediatrician in attendance was not qualified to care for very sick newborns and he did not properly resuscitate the baby. As a result the baby suffered critical injuries to the brain, heart, liver, hematologic system and intestines. The baby died after eight days in the intensive care unit. Suit was filed on behalf of the deceased child and his parents by our attorneys. Case was tried for three days and settled favorably on the third day of trial.
Lawrence County, PA – an Ellwood City man went into the hospital for minor surgery on his shoulder. When he was being put to sleep with anesthetics, serious errors were made and the anesthesiologist was unable to put a tube in to breathe for him. As a result, his oxygen dropped, his heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated. He suffered serious damage to his brain and other organs such as his heart, liver and lungs. Suit was filed on his behalf by our lawyers. The case was settled successfully prior to trial.
Crawford County, PA – a woman from near Warren went for routine mammograms every year. She developed a lump in her breast and told her doctors about it. Mammograms that were done for several years while she had the lump were read as normal. Finally, after three years, her primary care doctor referred her to a surgeon. At surgery the lump turned out to be cancerous. It had spread to lymph nodes. When we reviewed the case we found that the mammograms had been misread by the radiologist and had showed cancer all along. Also, the primary care doctor who knew of the lump for three years should have referred her to a surgeon immediately instead of delaying. Suit was filed on her behalf by our medical malpractice lawyers. The case settled successfully prior to trial.
Blair County, PA – a Tyrone man went into the hospital to have his gallbladder removed laparoscopically (through a scope). Following surgery he was very ill and turned yellow. His doctor saw him repeatedly and did minor procedures but did not fix the problem. Finally, after several months, he went to a new doctor who diagnosed that his common bile duct and right hepatic artery had been clipped and cut in two at his first surgery. He required months in the hospital to be repaired. Suit was filed on his behalf by our attorneys. The case was settled successfully prior to trial.
Crawford County, PA – a woman had her gallbladder removed in 1998. In 2005, her belly swelled up and became painful. She was taken to surgery and it was found that a sponge had been left in her abdomen at the time of her original gallbladder surgery in 1998. This resulted in severe scarring and adhesions and a large part of her intestine had to be removed along with the sponge. Suit was filed on her behalf by our medical malpractice attorneys. The case was settled successfully prior to trial.
Allegheny County, PA – a man had surgery to remove a tumor from his buttock. After surgery he was placed on intravenous pain medicines using a PCA, or patient controlled analgesia, device. The doctor prescribed a dangerously high dose of pain medication to be administered in a way that undermined the safety features of the PCA device. Nurses did not check on the man with the frequency they were supposed to. He was found dead of an overdose of pain medications in the morning. A wrongful death suit was filed on behalf of his family and the case settled successfully before trial.
Cambria County, PA – a Johnstown woman went into the hospital for a heart catheterization. This is a procedure, generally done by a cardiologist, where large needles are inserted into a leg artery and a catheter is threaded into the blood vessels of the heart so that they can be examined. The catheterization showed that the blood vessels of the heart were normal. Soon after the procedure, our client developed severe pain in her left leg, the side where the catheter had been inserted. She was unable to walk. Although she returned to the doctor many times over the next month, her complaints were ignored. Finally, she went to a vascular surgeon who diagnosed that during the catheterization the artery to her leg had been severely damaged and she was now suffering from severe ischemia, or lack of blood to her left leg. She had multiple surgeries, but because her injury had gone on without being corrected for so long, her condition could not be remedied and she has permanent trouble with walking. Suit was filed on her behalf by our lawyers. The case settled successfully after two days of trial.
Bedford County, PA – a man ruptured his biceps tendon. The orthopedist that repaired the injury severed a nerve to his hand and caused him to have a claw hand. He went through surgery to repair the damage, but did not regain full function of his hand. Suit was filed on his behalf by our attorneys. The case settled successfully before trial.
Allegheny County, PA – a woman from North Huntington was admitted to the hospital for abdominal pain from gallstones, which were treated successfully. The day before she was to be sent home from the hospital, she developed chest pain and was seen by a resident (a young doctor in training) who performed an EKG and did some blood tests to check cardiac enzymes. The results showed that the woman was in the early stages of a heart attack. The results were faxed to a cardiologist, who did not come into the hospital to see her. Correct treatment was not initiated. Through the night EKGs and further blood tests showed her heart attack was progressing and she was doing poorly. The cardiologist received this information and still did not come into the hospital. In the morning she was transferred to another hospital where she died. Suit was filed on behalf of her family by our medical negligence lawyers. The case was successfully settled prior to trial.
Mercer County, PA – a young boy broke his arm and was taken to the emergency room. He complained that he had no feeling in his hand. The fracture that the boy suffered put him at particular risk for a condition called compartment syndrome, where increased pressure in the arm can destroy muscle, nerves and tendons. Numbness can be one of the first signs of the condition, which must be treated immediately to prevent permanent damage. The boy was seen by an orthopedist who ignored the boy’s complaints, put his arm in a cast and sent him home. The boy’s parents were not told about compartment syndrome or what to watch out for. Over the night, the boy developed increasing numbness and severe pain. He was taken to a different hospital in the morning where compartment syndrome was diagnosed and emergency surgery was performed. The boy suffered scarring and permanent loss of function of his arm and hand. The case settled successfully prior to trial.
Mercer County, PA – a woman from Sharon in her 9th month of a normal pregnancy went into labor and presented to the hospital to deliver her baby. She was placed on a fetal monitor by nurses there. The monitor showed severe fetal distress with each contraction. Although the nurses and her obstetrician were aware of the monitor findings, a caesarean section was not performed and she was allowed to continue in labor for many hours before her baby was delivered. When the baby was born, his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck-this had been cutting off his oxygen and had caused the monitor strips to be abnormal. The baby suffered severe brain injury from lack of oxygen during delivery and was hospitalized for several months in a neonatal intensive care unit. As he grew older, the young boy suffered from cerebral palsy, developmental delays and behavioral problems. Suit was filed on behalf of the child and his parents by attorneys in this birth injury case. The case was successfully settled before trial.
Indiana County, PA – an Indiana man developed intermittent rectal bleeding and a change in his bowel habits. His family doctor diagnosed him with hemorrhoids but did not do further testing. After several years of problems, the man sought another opinion and was found to have a colon cancer. By the time the cancer was diagnosed it had already spread to his lymph nodes. Suit was filed on the man’s behalf by lawyers in this delay in diagnosis of cancer case. The case was successfully settled prior to trial.
Allegheny County, PA – a Pittsburgh woman went into the hospital for a cardiac catheterization. The test showed that she had several arterial blockages. These were successfully treated with angioplasty. Immediately after the procedure she was taken to a recovery area where she initially did well. After a few hours, the sheath (large hollow needle through which the catheter was introduced to do the procedure) was pulled out. She immediately developed severe pain and her blood pressure fell, a sign of internal bleeding that needed to be addressed immediately. Although the cause of her problems should have been readily apparent and she should have immediately been taken for corrective surgery, nothing was done to treat her for a full 8 hours. Finally, after a CT scan was ordered that showed a large retroperitoneal bleed, a procedure was performed that plugged the hole from where she was bleeding. Unfortunately, the woman had lost so much blood that she died the following day. A wrongful death suit was filed on behalf of her family by our attorneys. The case successfully settled before trial.
Failure to Property Intubate
Allegheny County – A 31-year old woman, native of Indiana PA, was admitted to a large teaching hospital in Pittsburgh with difficulty breathing. A tube was put in to breathe for her (intubation). While in the intensive care unit, an order was given to pull out her breathing tube (extubation). This procedure was done by a nurse without a doctor present. Soon after extubation, the patient developed severe trouble breathing requiring emergency reinsertion of the breathing tube. Tragically, the tube could not be reinserted due to a lack of proper equipment and personnel. No attempt was made to place an air hole in her neck (cricothyrotomy) for her to breathe through until it was too late. The result was the untimely death of a very young person. Suit was filed and the case was settled for a confidential sum.
Complications from Surgery
Allegheny County – A 76 year old woman from West Mifflin went to a Pittsburgh Hospital for surgery to relieve arthritis in her spine. She was on blood thinner medication due to a heart condition. Although the surgery was successful, several days following the procedure she developed weakness and numbness in her left leg. Her symptoms became progressively worse and after two days of leg weakness she lost control of her bowel and bladder function. Despite multiple calls to doctors by nurses, no doctor came to look at her for 48 hours. By the time she was evaluated and diagnosed with a large spinal epidural hematoma (blood pushing on her spinal cord) it was too late to save either the function of her leg or her bowel or bladder function. Suit was filed and the case settled for a confidential sum on the eve of trial.
Emergency Room Negligence
Venango County – A 52 year old Franklin man presented to the Emergency Department of a local hospital with the sudden onset of dizziness, nausea and vomiting. He had such severe imbalance and was not able to get up off of the floor. These are classic symptoms of a stroke in the posterior circulation (the blood vessels in the back) of the brain. Although he went quickly to the hospital by ambulance, stroke was not considered or diagnosed for 48 hours. By that time it was too late to give him TPA, the clot-busting drug that can be used to reverse a stroke. As a result, the stroke was severe and permanently affected his balance, ability to breathe and ability to swallow. Suit was filed and the case was settled for a confidential sum prior to trial.
Clarion County – a 30-year-old Clarion man went into a local hospital for arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn ligament in his knee. During the surgery, the popliteal artery and vein, the main blood vessels supplying the lower leg and the foot, were severed by the surgeon. Although nurses noted that he had no pulse in his foot immediately following the procedure, the surgeon did not address his error until 6 hours after the operation. At that point, the patient was life-flighted to Pittsburgh for major vascular surgical repair of his blood vessels. Despite that, because of the length of time that went by between injury and repair, irreversible damage had been done to the tissue and nerves of his lower leg. Suit was filed and the case settled for a confidential sum prior to trial.
Allegheny County – A 58 –year-old West Mifflin woman was admitted to a local hospital for removal of a “tumor” in her bowel. In fact, she did not have a tumor, but a small polyp that had already been removed with a colonoscope. This surgery was entirely unnecessary. The surgeon took out a very large part of her bowel and, in the process, he damaged blood vessels and arteries that keep the bowel alive. As a result, what remained of her bowel died and became gangrenous. She remained in the hospital for 20 days before the surgeon re-operated on her, found the gangrene and tried to repair the damage. By then it was too late, infection had spread throughout her body and she died within a week. Suit was filed and the case settled immediately prior to trial for a confidential sum.
Failure to Diagnose
A 76-year-old Harrison County man was sent to a local hospital by his primary care doctor for a CT scan to evaluate him for abdominal pain. The CT scan was performed and interpreted by a radiologist as negative. In fact, the CT scan showed a small, operable tumor of the kidney. Over time, the patient developed more pain, blood in his urine and weight loss. By the time he had a repeat CT scan of the kidney nearly a year later, his small cancer had quintupled in size, had invaded his blood vessels and spread throughout his body. He died within a few months. Suit was filed by his surviving spouse and the case settled prior to trial for a confidential sum.