As a West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer, I recognize that it’s so many of these cases are predicated on what doctors did NOT do, as opposed to what they actually did.
In a recent Florida medical malpractice case out of the First Judicial Circuit, a jury awarded $1.7 million to the widow of a man who grew increasingly ill after doctors reportedly failed to diagnose him with a condition they should have caught much earlier.
He’d gone to the emergency room in December 2017 with pain and internal bleeding. And although he was released, he never truly recovered after that stay. He died a few years later of congestive heart failure, but it was his widow’s position (with which the jury later agreed) that if his doctors provided him with quality care during that initial emergency room visit, his other conditions would not have worsened and he’d likely have lived longer and with a better quality of life.
In medical malpractice cases, the primary question is not necessarily whether there was a bad patient outcome, heartbreaking as that can be. The issue is whether we can show:
- The healthcare provider failed in their duty to provide care aligning with the standards expected of someone with their education, experience, and resources. (This is proven with expert witness testimony.)
- This failure to provide care aligned with professional standards directly caused or exacerbated the plaintiff’s injuries.
- The injuries sustained resulted in financial harm.
In the recent case, the decedent went to an emergency room in late 2017 with pain in his back, right leg and right flank. The doctor ordered a CT scan, which showed bleeding. The doctor chalked up the bleeding to the man’s anticoagulant prescription, prescribed to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. The doctor ordered the prescription stopped immediately, but he never consulted with blood specialists. Furthermore, he never ordered the sort of treatments that are commonly used to address internal bleeding.
He was sent home, but his condition worsened. Still, no treatments were ordered to stem the bleeding. His blood loss led to new conditions, such as acute renal and liver failure, shock, heart injury, nerve damage, and lower extremity paralysis. He was re-admitted to the hospital – a place that would seem to have a revolving door for him over the next few years. Essentially, he never fully recovered after that 2017 stay, his widow said.
At trial, the man’s estate argued that there was a window of opportunity to seek out effective treatments to stem the internal bleeding – and that window was missed. Consultations with other departments, additional testing, additional monitoring – none of that was done, despite the severity of his injuries. This, plaintiff lawyers argued, fell below the applicable standard of care that doctors should have provided during that 2017 emergency room visit. This failure, they argued, led to the snowball effect of his health declining for years.
True, he died from congestive heart failure. But that was exacerbated by his excessive weight, which only became a problem after his leg was paralyzed after the 2017 hospital stay.
Plaintiff sued several parties for medical malpractice during that initial hospital stay. Several settled before trial. The case that ultimately went to trial involved two of his emergency room doctors. They argued insufficient causation between his 2017 hospital stay and his subsequent death. With respect to one of the doctors, jurors disagreed and awarded $2.5 million in damages, later reduced to $1.7 million.
If you believe a missed diagnosis, missed treatment, missed consultation, or missed testing may have led to more serious complications, we can help.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
FLORIDA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE AND THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS, Florida Bar Association
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