Cardiologist Malpractice Settlement Is $1.74 Million

2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Lawsuit against cardiologist and primary care physician (PCP) for failing to diagnose and treat patient’s chest pains resulting in death

The executor of the decedent’s estate brought this medical malpractice and Wrongful Death action against two defendants, a Primary Care Physician (PCP) and a cardiologist. The decedent complained to his PCP of chest pain in the mornings, usually on his way to work. The PCP sent him for a stress test to be done by the cardiologist. The cardiologist interpreted the stress test as normal, but because of some chest pain the patient had during the test, he did a second stress test with perfusion imaging, which was also interpreted as normal. After being told the stress tests were normal, the decedent had an additional episode of chest pain and reported it to the PCP. The PCP relied on the normal stress test results, which led him to consider other potential causes, including gastrointestinal causes. More than a month after the stress test, the decedent was found dead at home, leaving behind a new wife and two children by a prior marriage. The autopsy revealed a “subtotal occlusion” of his Left Anterior Descending artery.

The plaintiff claimed that the stress test showed a decreased ejection fraction, but this was denied by the cardiologist. The cardiologist maintained that the ejection fraction was 55% at all times during the testing and was therefore entirely within normal limits. The plaintiff further claimed that a subsequent episode of the same chest pain should have warranted further evaluation by the PCP and referral back to the cardiologist. The PCP relied on the two reassuring stress tests that had been reported to him. The PCP claimed his care was appropriate based upon the atypical nature of the decedent’s pain, including the fact that the pain followed his morning coffee and occurred at rest usually while driving to work. The PCP further relied on the fact that, at a subsequent follow up visit, the decedent’s pain episodes had improved, suggesting there was no need for urgent follow up at that time. Both defendants were prepared to claim that the decedent died of an arrhythmia that was totally unpredictable and unforeseeable. The plaintiff claimed that intervention during a cardiac catheterization, more likely than not, would have prevented the arrhythmia even if the timing of such arrhythmias may be unpredictable.

(Essex County Superior Court)

Lubin & Meyer represented the plaintiff in this cardiologist malpractice lawsuit.

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