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Case example: Failure of ER Staff to Order Appropriate Tests

Posted on January 10, 2014

On January 4, 1997, around 6 a.m., a 39-year old man was admitted to a local Philadelphia hospital with complaints of stomach pain. He was diagnosed with pancreatits based on a preliminary blood test, but a complete blood work-up was never ordered. That same day he died from an undiagnosed ruptured aortic aneurysm.

During trial, witnesses testified that the patient wasn’t seen by a physician until 11 a.m., and the physician did not order, as required by the standard of care, a chest X-ray. A second doctor saw him around 12 p.m., a third-year resident, who noted abnormally high blood pressure but failed to notice an irregular pulse that would have led to cardiovascular testing. He did order a chest X-ray, but it was not interpreted until after the patient died.

Duffy + Partners retained experts in emergency room medicine, vascular surgery, and radiology, who testified that basic tests such as an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, and a complete blood work-up would have shown early signs of an aortic dissection, where the lining of the aorta opens up, leaking blood into the sac around the heart, causing the patient to bleed to death.

The jury awarded a $4,500,000 verdict against the hospital, finding the hospital negligent. The verdict was reported as one of the largest verdicts in the state that year.

Do you have questions about a similar circumstance? We are here to help. Click here to send us details, or contact the firm at (215) 238-8700.