Medical Malpractice ­ Failure To Diagnose Cardiac Condition - $1,400,000

Failure To Diagnose Cardiac Condition $1,400,000
Injuries alleged:
Court: Withheld
Amount of settlement: $1.4 million

Case Summary:
The plaintiff's decedent, a 47-year-old seasonal mason and married father of three, complained to the defendant family practitioner of tightness or deep pain in his chest that occurred when he was performing physical labor. At that time, the defendant, who was six months out of his residency training, documented an impression of 'sinusitis, question atypical type infection,' and prescribed medication. The plaintiff's decedent called one week later to advise that the medications were not helping, and Prednisone was added to his regimen. Eight days later, the plaintiff's decedent once again called the defendant to advise that the occasional sharp pain in his chest was not getting better. The defendant ordered chest X-rays and sinus X-rays, which he had never ordered before. The results were negative.

One month later, the plaintiff's decedent again visited the defendant, stating that he was having chest tightness and a burning sensation when he jogged that was associated with shortness of breath and fleeting palpitations, all of which got better with rest. An EKG was performed and interpreted as normal by the defendant, but showed ST depressions at rest, which allegedly were not appreciated by the defendant at the time. The defendant stated that 'atypical chest tightness ... cannot rule out underlying cardiopulmonary disease.' Besides a pulmonary function test, the defendant ordered a non-stress test and scheduled it to occur in five weeks. Two weeks later, the plaintiff's decedent suffered a fatal myocardial infarction while skiing.

The defendant was deposed at length. He agreed that the stress test could have been ordered STAT, but said he had not felt that cardiac involvement was high up on his differential. The defendant, however, agreed that given the symptomatology and EKG of the plaintiff's decedent two weeks before he died, the standard of care would have required that he advise his patient not to participate in any strenuous activities until the stress test was given. The defendant claimed that he did give such advice but admitted that he had not noted it in his records, even though it would have constituted 'significant medical advice,' which he normally would have charted. The defendant claimed at his deposition that he had a clear recall of the patient and this conversation between them. When pressed by the plaintiffs' attorney as to a physical description of the patient, however, he gave a description that did not match the plaintiff's decedent.

The plaintiffs' attorneys were prepared to call experts in the fields of internal medicine and cardiology to testify that the defendant deviated from standards of care and that such deviations were a significant cause of death in the plaintiff's decedent. The defendants had listed an expert in primary care medicine to testify that the defendant had complied with standards of care at the time.

The case settled for $1.4 million just prior to the final pre-trial conference.