Failure To Diagnose Viral Myocarditis: $4.8M Verdict

2015 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

23-year-old man dies less than 24 hours of presenting to St. Elizabeth's Medical Center ER with fever, back pain, congestion, pain with breathing and chest pain.

On 08/14/06, the plaintiff’s decedent presented to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center with complaints of fever, back pain, congestion, pain with breathing and chest pain. The defendant Emergency Room physician, Ivan Liang, M.D. documented that he did a “head to toe exam,” but the records and the testimony at trial indicate that he spent approximately five minutes or less speaking with and examining the decedent. The evidence at trial showed that Dr. Liang had prepared discharge papers within ten minutes of examining the decedent. Despite having complaints or chest pain, Dr. Liang did not perform an EKG. The decedent was sent home with a diagnosis of bronchitis, antibiotics and Vicodin. The decedent was found dead in his bed less than 24 hours after his discharge. An autopsy showed that he had died from viral myocarditis which caused his heart to develop a dysrhythmia.

The plaintiff presented an expert witness in Infectious Diseases who explained that when a patient presents with chest pain, an EKG and blood work is required along with a complete history and physical exam. The plaintiff’s expert explained to the jury at trial that had an EKG and blood tests been ordered that both would have been abnormal which would have resulted in admission to the hospital, close monitoring and supportive care, and the decedent would not have died from the viral myocarditis.

The defense presented an expert at trial who opined that viral myocarditis is a difficult diagnosis to make and it was reasonable for the defendant to have not suspected myocarditis in light of his complaints of congestion and prior diagnoses of bronchitis. However, the defense expert conceded that, in retrospect, the decedent's pain was a result of underlying myocarditis and an EKG would have most likely been abnormal if ordered by the defendant 

The jury returned a verdict after approximately 3 ½ hours with the judgment totaling $4,800,000.

Lubin & Meyer attorney Robert Higgins represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit.

To see related news coverage of this verdict from the Boston Globe, click on this link: Myocarditis misdiagnosed as bronchitis.

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