Emergency Room Malpractice Settlement: $1.5 Million

2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Lawsuit brought against ER physicians and nurses when man suffering chest pains dies of aortic dissection

The executor of the decedent’s estate brought this medical malpractice and wrongful death action against the doctors and nurses responsible for the decedent when he went to the Emergency Department with chest pain. The decedent arrived in the Emergency Department (ED) at approximately 4:30 PM on 1/1/04. In the nursing triage note, timed 4:36 PM, the first nurse defendant indicated that the decedent was complaining of pain from the center of his abdomen to his chest. He rated his pain a 10 out of possible 10, “the worst” he had experienced. His pain had started at approximately noontime and was initially associated with shortness of breath. The nurse’s assessment was that the decedent was stable and did not have a potentially life threatening emergency and could wait to see a physician. However, the plaintiff claimed that his blood pressure was 133/35, which was a widened pulse pressure that could be consistent with aortic dissection. Therefore, the plaintiff claimed that the nurse should have summoned a doctor immediately.

The decedent was placed in a room at 5:15 PM. His blood pressure was 135/45 (pulse pressure of 90). The decedent was first seen by a resident physician approximately an hour and twenty minutes after his arrival in the ED. The plaintiff claimed that the resident doctor, her attending and the nurse assigned to the patient failed to act promptly to diagnose and treat the decedent’s aortic dissection based on his widened pulse pressure and a family history of dissection. The defendants claimed that his workup was proceeding as fast as it could in light of concerns over his ability to have the tests he needed. Nearly three hours after his arrival in the ED, at 7:20 p.m., the decedent became extremely bradycardiac and suffered an asystolic arrest. An emergent CT scan was then obtained which confirmed a type I (A) aortic dissection. At 8:05 PM, the decedent was brought to the operating room. The surgeon noted that there was a clear-cut dissection of the ascending aorta. Postoperatively, while the surgery to fix the aneurysm was a success, the decedent had suffered a hypoxic ischemic brain injury. The neurologist also indicated that he likely suffered a spinal cord infarct as he had no spontaneous movements of his lower extremities. The decedent ultimately died from complications of his brain injury. (Settlement: $1.5 million. Suffolk Superior Court. )

Lubin & Meyer represented the plaintiff in this emergency room malpractice lawsuit.

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